Two items this morning remind us of how difficult it can be to focus on what causes what.
Post hoc ergo propter hoc. It makes sense to infer that what comes right after something else was caused by the something else. But of course it’s a logical fallacy.
Scott Greenfield is looking at the same phenomena we are – the civil unrest, the calls for abolishing the police, and so on – and attributes the problems to the police themselves. And of course to an extent he is correct. Certainly the police as a group are not blameless in the situation they find themselves in.
But we focus on the legal profession and the courts. We figure that constitutionally speaking, these are the check on the police, so if the police are failing the cause would be there, and not just the police themselves. We also figure that chain-of-command speaking, we are the supervisors of the police, and the problems people are now perceiving with the police are nothing if not problems of poor supervision. Or a lack of supervision, if you prefer.
Indeed this blog started more than 10 years ago focusing on the same thing and was, for the most part, shouted down by other members of the profession, Mr. Greenfield himself perhaps the most prominent among them.
Is he right, or are we? A little of both, probably.
Our habit, it turns out, is thinking things through. And when you think things through, you often go back further, and forge deeper, before you declare that you have found the cause of some observed thing.
Another example of that in our approach to things even on this little blog itself is our proposals regarding the “financial crisis”, which we have usually cautioned should be referred to as a “rule of law” crisis.
Almost as long ago, we proposed that the solution to the problem was a jubilee and a return to the gold standard, and figured the only way to get there was with a constitutional amendment. At least in the US.
We had no takers then. Now? There’s a lot of talk about debt forgiveness. There is talk of a “reset” in the wake of the current pandemic, and some people believe it will involve a currency restructuring.
But it won’t be by a constitutional amendment and it almost certainly will not involve a return to the gold standard.
It seems to us that before a solution a problem can be devised, the correct cause of the problem must be identified. And that, it seems, is usually a tougher task than any posed by the problem itself.