Writing at The Week, Matt Bruenig puts forth the argument against the current process for educating and certifying lawyers, declaring that the process is too onerous, allowing lawyers and law professors to extract severe rents:
To gain entry into the legal profession, you must acquire a four-year undergraduate degree, a three-year law degree, and then pass a state bar exam. These onerous credentialing requirements ostensibly act as a gatekeeper, filtering out lower-quality would-be attorneys until we are left with only a small pool of supposedly highly competent lawyers from which to hire. But by keeping this pool small in this way, lawyers are able to capture credential rents — surplus income far above what they might otherwise make. This is good for lawyers, but bad for everyone else.
First of all, a big hardy Welcome! to Matt for jumping aboard the libertarian steam train. (I hope you don’t mind me calling you Matt.) Whether we’re talking about lawyres, doctors, florists or psychics, licensing regimes work to depress the supply of a particular vocation, creating an artificial shortage and driving up prices for the rest of us. There are times when these systems can benefit the public, but too often it is just a measure for a special interest to ensure that they continue receiving inflated revenues or salaries.
(Since I’m patting libertarians on the back, I should also note that too often libertarians ignore the problems of self-imposed licensing regimes because they/we get too focus on the coercive power of governments and not private actors.)
Second, a big ol’ kudos to Matt (I’m just going with it whether you like it or not) for arguing against his future self-interest. A while back, Jason wrote a post arguing that intellectual honesty demands that we writers/bloggers/opinionatists must make sure that we do not shy away from topics when our opinions could potentially harm us. It was a good post, but I’m too lazy to search for it.
Matt (yeah, we’re on a first name basis now) is a law student. Soon, he will be a law school grad. He has gone through the over-priced torturous regime he decries. If his preferred policies were implemented tomorrow, he would be a significant disadvantage compared to previous law school cohorts in his job prospects and income potential. He wants to drive salaries down for all lawyers, get a whole bunch new lawyers in the market and he will still be on the hook for all his student loans. Unlike many of his detractors who also have a vested interest in the status quo, he is willing to present a principled argument even if it winds up hurting him in the long run.
His selflessness does not make him right, of course, but it does make me respect him. It also makes me respect his opinion far more than those who are getting fat off these legal rents.