Thursday, March 02, 2006

Assigning Blame

In the comments for Stupid Lawyers - Stupid People below, there was some lively discussion about who is responsible for out of control lawsuits. I want to discuss the larger concept of assigning blame properly.

Most of my blog readers as well as those who's blogs I read generally have good critical thinking skills and I want to encourage you to apply those skills when assigning blame. Even the best critical thinkers can abandon reason and be swayed by emotions (EVEN ME!).

MikeT said:

And people call me a socialist for believing there should be legal limits on how much money lawyers can make...

I don't want a true free market for lawyers because they don't work in the market. They do their work in a court room where the person who loses sacrifices life, liberty and property. For the life of me, I don't see any libertarian virtue in calling that a fair market exchange. We have to put limits on their takes (5% or $200,000 whichever is higher is my preference) so that we can make it less interesting to the Get Rich Now! mobs who couldn't cut it in even business school in college.

Extrapolate that across the entire work sector. If we allowed government to cap lawyer fees, there would be no end to the capping of fees and salaries given to other professions.

Here's where we apply the critical thinking skills in order to assign blame. First of all, the lawyers have seen a tremendous market opportunity created by the government and they have taken advantage of it. While it may not be ethical according to our standards, the opportunity is still there and they take it.

Apply that to illegal aliens. I don't blame the illegal aliens for attempting to come here and take advantage of the system that the government has set up. I still think they should be rounded up and deported but I am more concerned about removing the incentive to for them to come here.

Now we know how to assign blame. First and foremost, blame is assigned to the one that creates motive either actively or passively. If I leave my car unlocked and my door wide open and someone steals my CD collection, I am partly to blame. If I've made a good faith effort to secure my car (and I don't mean taking extraordinary measures) and someone breaks in to it, I do not share the blame.

The person that takes my CD's is still 100% culpable for his crime even though I am partly at fault. Total culpability can be more than 100%. In fact, total culpability is 100% for each party involved. In other words, the guy that steals my CD's should still be punished for the full weight of his crime even though I created the circumstances that tempted him.

The government, deliberately and unintentionally, has allowed our legal system to devolve to the point where anyone can sue for anything. I'm not even going to pretend that I have the answers to proper tort reform, I just know that the government is to blame for the problem being out of control. The lawyers are still wrong for exploiting the problem but the only way to push the barrier back is by restraining the government, not the lawyers. Remove the incentive and the problem gets better. Lock your car and it deters a thief, stop the giveaways to illegals and they won't have a reason to come, reform the legal system and the lawyers won't have as much to sue for. There will always be some abuse, some theft, some illegals. We have to be vigilant though and assign the blame for the problems properly in order to direct the resources to the right place to have the problem solved.

MikeT, it wasn't my intention to pick on you in this post, it's just that your comment served as a perfect example to demonstrate my thought process.