Friday, February 23, 2007

Incompetent and Evil

This post is brought to you in a roundabout way by Mean Mr. Mustard’s comments on a Fred Reed article. Russell’s post about paranoia is interesting and, I believe, debatable. Is it possible to be both incompetent and evil? I think that is more common than we tend to acknowledge.

For example, I am teaching from two different textbook which I think are both. I usually try to give academics the benefit of the doubt. I know that once people get into the Marxist echo-chamber, it is difficult to see any other world-view. Many times, as well, certain turns of phrase are simply poorly-written instead of being deliberately misleading. However, past a certain point I think you have to stop assuming good faith on the part of a text-book author.

Take, for example, del Carmen’s Criminal Procedure: Law and Practice, 6th edition (Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth Publishing Company (2003). It informs us that the US Supreme Court runs the political gamut from conservative (Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas) to moderately conservative (Kennedy, O’Connor) to moderate (Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, Stevens) (del Carmen, 2003, at 5). This I would classify as incompetent.

More ominously, the textbook maintains that it is almost impossible to define the rule of law as it operates in the United States (del Carmen, 2003, at 23). I would be much less irritated by this promotion of critical legal theory in a book intended for law students, who would be expected to read more skeptically, but this is an introductory text written for para-professionals such as police and corrections officers. It is one thing to alert students to the finer points of an academic debate within a profession, but it is entirely another to use a relatively-obscure academic debate to cast aspersions on the foundations of Anglo-Saxon common law. This I would classify as evil.

What does this have to do with Russell's post? Absolutely nothing. It has just been rattling about in my brain for awhile now.

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