It is the lawyers who run our civilization for us -- our governments, our business, our private lives. Most legislators are lawyers; they make our laws. Most presidents, governors, commissioners, along with their advisers and brain-trusters are lawyers; they administer our laws. All the judges are lawyers; they interpret and enforce our laws. There is no separation of powers where the lawyers are concerned. There is only a concentration of all government power -- in the lawyers.
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The reason the lawyers lead the line to the guillotine or the firing squad is that, while law is supposed to be a device to serve society, a civilized way of helping the wheels go round without too much friction, it is pretty hard to find a group less concerned with serving society and more concerned with serving themselves than the lawyers.
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The Lawyers' trade is a trade built entirely on words. And so long as the lawyers carefully keep to themselves the key to what those words mean, the only way the average man can find out what is going on is to become a lawyer, or at least to study law, himself. All of which makes it very nice -- and very secure -- for the lawyers.
In tribal times, there were the medicine men. In the Middle Ages, there were the priests. Today, there are the lawyers. For every age, a group of bright boys, learned in their trades and jealous of their learning, who blend technical competence with plain and fancy hocus-pocus to make themselves masters of their fellow men. For every age, a pseudo-intellectual autocracy, guarding the tricks of the trade from the uninitiated, and running, after its own pattern, the civilization of its day.
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It is a mistake to think of these men as visionary dreamers, playing around at Philadelphia with abstract conceptions of political theory, pulling a whole scheme of government out of the air like a rabbit out of a hat. True, many of them had read and studied enough about the science of politics to put the average statesman of today to shame. But political science was to them an extremely practical topic of discussion, dealing with the extremely practical business of running a government--not, as today, a branch of higher learning reserved for the use of graduate students.
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Exceptions to the traditions of dumpy dignity and fake learnedness in law review writing are as rare as they are beautiful. Once in a while a Thomas Reed Powell gets away with an imaginary judicial opinion that gives a real twist to the lion's tail. Once in a while a Thurman Arnold forgets his footnotes as though to say that if people do not believe or understand him that is their worry and not his. But even such mild breaches of etiquette as these are tolerated gingerly and seldom, and are likely to be looked at a little askance by the writers' more pious brethren.
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