Sunday, November 06, 2005

Money, Ideology, Grants, Awards and Politics

Ted Frank at Point of Law recently refers to an older LawPundit posting and imputes that I "was especially impressed" in that posting by a speech David C. Johnson gave to the ATLA (Association of Trial Lawyers of America) on July 7, 2004 in Boston.

Frank's statement could be a bit misleading to some and might give the false impression that I side with Johnson's political views, which is simply not the case.

The LawPundit is a political centrist and on many issues is quite a bit to the political right of Johnson. I certainly do not see anything wrong with the type of funding engaged in by the Bradley Foundation and I am in fact currently more in their philosophical camp than in that of ostensibly competing left-wing organizations such as MoveOn.org. Political issues are subject to a political pendulum - sometimes that pendulum has to swing to the left to correct abuses on the right, and sometimes it has to swing to the right to correct abuses on the left. At the moment, that pendulum is definitely, and justifiably swinging to the right on many issues, in part fostered by the world political situation. Freedom without security is impossible.

In any case, what I did do in the LawPundit posting cited by Frank was to point out that Johnson's speech "gives an interesting analysis of modern politics at work in America, suggesting that political "ideology" is the motive force behind current legal and societal change, for example, in the alleged need for "tort reform". I personally do not have much doubt that this is true. That is the way the world works everywhere. Money and ideology on all sides of the political fence drive events. I regard these kinds of insights to be neither "smears" nor "conspiracy theories" but accurate views of the "real world", views which are essential to a better understanding of that world.

I would also like to suggest that Frank might be overemphasizing an error in Johnson's 2003 Report, The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law, which erroneously states that Lynde Bradley was a member of the John Birch Society, which of course can not be true, since, as Frank correctly points out, that Society was formed after Lynde Bradley's passing.

However, examination of the source for that footnote 7 in that 2003 report by Johnson indicates that this was a simple confusion of names. It was Harry Bradley to whom the reference had been made in "Buying a Movement," the cited article by PFAW (People for the American Way), and not Lynde Bradley. The PFAW wrote as follows: "Harry Bradley was an active member of the John Birch Society and a contributor to the National Review." Johnson or his secretary simply had typed or confusedly used the wrong first name, but the basic link to one of the Bradleys was correct, presuming that this statement in PFAW is true, which we have no way to check for accuracy. In any case, Harry Bradley passed away in 1965, which was after the date of the founding of the John Birch society.

As for the Bradley Foundation, a list of their 2004 grants is quite impressive and one of their grants in 2003 was to one of my favorite journalists, Charles Krauthammer, whose opinions I often share. Indeed, I think it is a great thing that there is a countervailing balance to such grants as those to the MacArthur Foundation Fellows or even the Nobel Prize for Literature, awards which invariably go to members of the opposite political persuasion. Indeed, I would say that I am strongly opposed to most of the Nobel Prizes for Literature which have been awarded in recent decades because of their blatant political partisanship, and, yes, they should instead award the Nobel Prize to people such as J.K. Rowling, whose writing impact on our culture is enormous, rather than giving it to obscure writers whose actual impact is negligible and who simply mirror the political views of those who grant that Nobel Prize. It is a scandal - also this year's award, which at least did not go to a no-name.

But let me turn again to the money issue, which drives not only art and politics, but also determines the world of science and theology. As Lakatos writes, the "basic unit" of science is not scientific theory but the "research program", which propagates itself through increased funding over competition.

To put things into human terms, wherever the money goes, men are bound to follow.
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