My favorite post of 2009: A Modest Proposal, 2009 Edition

posted at 11:36 am on December 31, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

In years past, I would get asked what my favorite post or story was, and I’d always have the same reply: there are too many from which to choose.  This year, though, I do have a favorite post, an original essay prompted by the ObamaCare debate.  It gained a lot of attention, but what I liked most about it was how much fun it was to write.  As a way to help close out 2009 — and because it’s just as relevant today as it was five months ago — I’d like to offer once again “A Modest Proposal, 2009 Edition.”

Ladies and gentlemen of the Hot Air community, I have discovered an unfair disparity in access to a vital resource based on the economic condition of the consumer.  This disparity is not just egregious, but it threatens the very core of our American way of life.  People routinely get denied adequate and competent service on the basis of their ability to pay, even though they have a right to it, while the rich eat up all the resources with their ability to access the best and brightest in the field.  And in the interest of fairness, the federal government needs to find a solution and impose it on the industry as a whole.

I refer, of course, to legal representation.

Oh, sure, in an emergency, the government will foot the bill for a public defender to represent the poor and indigent, but that’s hardly a comfort to those who needed a lawyer before getting into the emergency condition in the first place.  Besides, while we have many dedicated public defenders, it’s hardly a news flash that the wealthy can afford much better representation and have a much better chance of prevailing in court in criminal cases.  When the poor, working class, and middle class end up in that emergency situation, they can lose their homes and property to pay for decent legal care — and that shouldn’t happen in America, should it?

After all, unlike health care, Americans actually do have a Constitutional right to legal representation in court.  Some will scoff and say the lack of a lawyer, or a bad lawyer, can’t cause your death.  Those critics may want to talk with the inmates who got freed from Death Row and lifetime prison sentences after having mediocre attorneys lose cases when the defendant was really innocent.  Bad or nonexistent legal representation can take years off of your life, and can definitely get you killed.

Even beyond that, though, the wealthy and connected have access to a much wider range of legal services than even the middle class can afford.  Estate planning, trust funds, tax shelters — all of these can be expertly provided to those with the resources to afford them, while other Americans get second-class status in our legal system.  For those who aspire to egalitarianism of result, this arrangement should be such an affront that it demands real action — now.

I propose that the government impose a single-payer system on the legal profession.  Instead of charging private fees, all attorneys would have to send their bills to LegalCare, a new agency in the federal government.  Because the government can bargain collectively, they can impose rational fees for legal services instead of the exorbitant billing fees attorneys now charge. Three hundred dollars an hour?  Thing of the past.  Everyone knows that the government can control costs through price-setting;  now we can see this process applied to the legal system, where the government has a large interest in seeing cost savings.

How will we pay for LegalCare?  I take a page from the House surtax method here, which will disproportionately hit doctors in a wide variety of disciplines.  In this case, I propose a 5.4% surtax on lawyers, judges, lobbyists, and political officeholders at the state and federal level.  They’re the ones who have enriched themselves through this inequity in the legal system.  After all, why should we all have to pay for the single-payer legal system when we can penalize lawyers instead?

Now, this will have some impact on the legal-services market.  On the downside, we’ll have fewer attorneys.  Law schools will get a lot less competitive as students avoid the law and the limited amount of money available through LegalCare, and existing attorneys may leave the profession as well as they fail to make enough money from the price-controlled compensation they get from the government.  All this will mean longer wait times and rationing of services as people flood attorneys’ offices to demand services disconnected from the actual cost to provide them.  It may take a couple of years to get a will done, so start when you’re young.

On the plus side … we’ll have fewer attorneys.  And politicians!  Best of all, everyone will get the same level of legal care regardless of their ability to pay, thanks to LegalCare and the government-imposed rationing of a resource to which we have a right to access at any time we want, for any reason we want.

Addendum: In case anyone misses the point, this is a satire.  However, I wouldn’t put it past certain statists to consider this a pretty good idea…

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Absolutely delicious satire!

search4truth on December 31, 2009 at 11:40 AM

Will trial lawyers sue themselves?

Bishop on December 31, 2009 at 11:44 AM

Sure makes a lot more sense than single payer health care…

Happy New Year, Ed, Allah, and Michelle! Thanks again for all the amazing work this year. Between Hot Air and Breitbart, there sure are a lot fewer shadows for liberal cockroaches to hide in.

Scott P on December 31, 2009 at 11:44 AM

I remembered this excellent analogy. One problem is how do you vilify lawyers? The only thing worse you can call them is Senator. Will vultures? Brief rustlers?

GnuBreed on December 31, 2009 at 11:45 AM

I missed this one Ed, very good, I get a mental image of John Edwards pissing himself over this one. I am going to e-mail this link around.

conservnut on December 31, 2009 at 11:45 AM

Ed, did any liberal ever seriously rebut this post?

I think the analogy is just spot on, I am guessing that when you originally posted it, the thread was troll free.

WashJeff on December 31, 2009 at 11:47 AM

Addendum: In case anyone misses the point, this is a satire. However, I wouldn’t put it past certain statists to consider this a pretty good idea…

I remember proposing universal veterinary care, the same caveat applied, sure it was satire, but it the Democrats might seriously propose it. I remember joking about reading Miranda Rights on the battlefield, and that doesn’t seem like such a joke at this point.

zmdavid on December 31, 2009 at 11:48 AM

It’s almost worth running for congress just to get this proposal written into law.

WashJeff on December 31, 2009 at 11:49 AM

First, let me agree with the suggestion that having fewer lawyers would be better for society.
More realistically, however, having fewer doctors is not good for society, especially not having as many excellent doctors as we now have. We are headed for having fewer doctors because of Obamacare. Everyone can do his own empirical research on this by asking your doctor: Doctor, how many of your kids, or kids of your doctor associates, are planning to become doctors? You will find that the numbers are dropping off a cliff.

GaltBlvnAtty on December 31, 2009 at 11:49 AM

I remember proposing universal veterinary care, the same caveat applied, sure it was satire, but it the Democrats might seriously propose it.
zmdavid on December 31, 2009 at 11:48 AM

I think that was a GOP guy that did something like that. Rep. T. McCotter offered up a tax break for pet care in 2009.

WashJeff on December 31, 2009 at 11:51 AM

SWEET!!

DougDavis on December 31, 2009 at 11:53 AM

Once we have equal access to legal representation would it be to much to ask for equal outcomes from the judges? We need affirmative action to make sure no one that had a losing lawyer has to be penalized unfairly.

fourdeucer on December 31, 2009 at 11:55 AM

So, what we really need is more lawyers and fewer guns, or don’t bring a knife to a lawyer fight.

Kissmygrits on December 31, 2009 at 11:56 AM

I got a good chuckle again, thanks for the repost. It should be manditory reading for anyone even considering this horrendous healthcare bill.

Have a great new year Ed, Allah, Michelle and everyone at HotAir!

DrAllecon on December 31, 2009 at 11:56 AM

First, let me agree with the suggestion that having fewer lawyers would be better for society.
More realistically, however, having fewer doctors is not good for society, especially not having as many excellent doctors as we now have. We are headed for having fewer doctors because of Obamacare. Everyone can do his own empirical research on this by asking your doctor: Doctor, how many of your kids, or kids of your doctor associates, are planning to become doctors? You will find that the numbers are dropping off a cliff.

GaltBlvnAtty on December 31, 2009 at 11:49 AM

Golly gee, did you come up with that on your own? No, wait… you probably just read the article.

RachDubya on December 31, 2009 at 11:56 AM

I love it!

But satire?

Doesn’t matter. Some parasite, er, uh, lawyer, will sue you anyways.

Happy new year.
.

locomotivebreath1901 on December 31, 2009 at 11:57 AM

Excellent analysis, Mr. Morrissey, but this:

On the downside, we’ll have fewer attorneys.

is not a downside. Less ambulance chasers is always a good thing.

rukiddingme on December 31, 2009 at 11:58 AM

I had forgotten how brilliant this post is. Exposing the absurd via absurdity, always the best satire.

Thanks, Ed, for choosing this classic for a re-post.

Happy New Year!

TXUS on December 31, 2009 at 11:59 AM

A forite of mine too. I thought for sure it was going to get more coverage in the conservative media than it did. Let’s float it again in 2010. It’s a powerful analogy.

petefrt on December 31, 2009 at 12:04 PM

*favorite*

petefrt on December 31, 2009 at 12:04 PM

I remember this one, lmao…..again.

SHARPTOOTH on December 31, 2009 at 12:05 PM

Addendum: In case anyone misses the point, this is a satire. However, I wouldn’t put it past certain statists to consider this a pretty good idea…

Hmm. I’m certainly a statist on this one. I’ve always thought it unfair that, if a person is found not guilty, they are still on the hook for their legal fees.

If you are not guilty, the state should compensate you for your costs of representation, and those costs should come out of the budgets of the organizations which prosecuted you. Your full attorney’s fees should be reimbursed — so as to prevent an unscrupulous attorney from throwing the case, so to speak, to avoid being compensated at a lower rate.

This would allow the truly innocent person top notch legal representation, at no cost to themselves (if the legal system works as it should).

unclesmrgol on December 31, 2009 at 12:06 PM

Satire?

It sounds like a great idea.

BobMbx on December 31, 2009 at 12:07 PM

brevity is the soul of wit

Think about that the next time you engage in satire. Yawn.

inchdeep on December 31, 2009 at 12:13 PM

Yep. Brilliant.

As a side benefit to illustring the nuttiness of the Health Scare cram-down, it exposes the fundamental hypocracy of the Statists.

notagool on December 31, 2009 at 12:14 PM

Excellent.

clearbluesky on December 31, 2009 at 12:17 PM

Why do you want this to be treated as satire. At least this is a proposal.

I would like law reform. The basics are as follows:
1>Cap lawyer fees
2>Lawyers can not refuse to handle cases. Their license be revoked if they are found to commit such a crime.
3>Lawyers banned from holding or running for public office.
4>A lawyer can not represent more than X number of cases.
5>Term limit for judges.
6>Windfall profit tax on ALL lawyers earning more than 150,000 dollars per year.

antisocial on December 31, 2009 at 12:18 PM

RachDubya@11:56
Thanks for your thoughtful comment.
Perhaps you have made some inquiries on your own about the number and intellectual quality of college students who plan to go to medical school, which generated some information that you can share with us. I have, through the method I mentioned, and it is clear to me that the Obamacare process is causing many qualified candidates to turn away from medical school, which is a bad thing for our country.
Happy New Year.

GaltBlvnAtty on December 31, 2009 at 12:20 PM

is not a downside. Less ambulance chasers is always a good thing.

rukiddingme on December 31, 2009 at 11:58 AM

Less of anything increases cost for the commodity. But I agree that less despicable lawyers replaced with respectable lawyers would be good.

csdeven on December 31, 2009 at 12:23 PM

csdeven@12:23
Our country does have too many lawyers, and it is not a blessing. Too many lawyers has led to way-to-many lawsuits filed to force expensive settlements on deep-pocket defendants, which in turn drives up the value and cost for good defense lawyers, which in turn drives up the cost of whatever commodity or service is being provided by the deep-pocket defendant.
Doctors are targets of too many phony lawsuits already, and the Obamacare legislation will lead to even more litigation and arbitrations being filed against them, among the other burdens it is placing on the medical profession.

GaltBlvnAtty on December 31, 2009 at 12:33 PM

Satire? I don’t think so. It’s an absolutely brilliant idea! Ed, from your lips to God’s ear.

Barb Dwyer on December 31, 2009 at 12:34 PM

I don’t think of myself as a statist but if we can’t have tort reform, this might be the next best thing. Torts are a tax on everyone.

burt on December 31, 2009 at 12:39 PM

This was an inspired post.

Thanos on December 31, 2009 at 1:03 PM

A Holiday Classic!

juanito on December 31, 2009 at 1:07 PM

Okay, this is just too good.

John the Libertarian on December 31, 2009 at 1:10 PM

The Statists wouldn’t touch that proposal with a ten foot pole. They wouldn’t want to kill their largest cash cow. They might be stupid, but their not dumb.

GarandFan on December 31, 2009 at 1:18 PM

To quote the immortal Bard…

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

Wolftech on December 31, 2009 at 1:33 PM

It was just as good today as it was the first time I read it.

ladyingray on December 31, 2009 at 1:37 PM

I remember reading that, it was priceless! It makes so much sense it hurts.

scalleywag on December 31, 2009 at 2:02 PM

A “Modest Proposal” to mandate legal representation just begs to be followed with a “Modest Proposal” to mandate firearms possession.

Unfortunately, this fits right into the liberal-socialist mindset: what isn’t forbidden must be compelled.

Cheers! And a Happy New Year to All!

ss396 on December 31, 2009 at 2:05 PM

Terrific.

Wait, health is different! We need access for ALL! But, in order to give access to all, we’ll need to ration it.

marklmail on December 31, 2009 at 2:14 PM

Brilliant! You’re the man, Ed! This one gets shared around.

jgapinoy on December 31, 2009 at 2:51 PM

I put a link to this on facebook. I love to p.o. the leftys in the family.

Mirimichi on December 31, 2009 at 4:31 PM

If we passed this instead of healthcare reform there would be no reason to call this satire at all. I would call it a vast improvement!

Resolute on December 31, 2009 at 4:39 PM

This reads just like a lot of the New York Times articles you post in the headlines section of HotAir.

Americannodash on December 31, 2009 at 5:32 PM

On the plus side … we’ll have fewer attorneys. And politicians!

Ours is the only country which has so many attorneys compared to the number of engineers, architects, builders, for ex.

Attorneys destruct while the others construct.

Most politiicians are attorneys, or better yet shysters.

Schadenfreude on December 31, 2009 at 7:46 PM

CALL FOR ACTION!!!!!

The website ‘The Post and Email’ has recently begun a drive to petition the state of Hawaii for Zero’s BC.

As a result of this petition US ISP’s have decided to stop offering their services to the Post & Email.

The Post & Email needs $10K in donations by Jan 6th to fund a move to an overseas secure dedicated server. If they do not meet this goal they will have to cease existence.

Please spread this message, and donate if you can.

Mr Purple on December 31, 2009 at 8:47 PM

I’m not a statist, but I think this is a damn good idea.
As it stands now, most politicians have to be lawyers to even read the bills they pass. Maybe we can pass a legibility law required that laws must be easy to read.
Nah, these ideas are too good to actually be implemented.

TimLenox on January 1, 2010 at 1:33 AM

Satire or not, legal costs are way out of control. Anyone who gets arrested for a mere DUI knows that. The government should provide single-payer for top-notch legal representation. Any defendant who is convicted should have the ability to sue counsel, too.
.
The hell with tort reform, single-payer legal representation is the way to go!

ExpressoBold on January 1, 2010 at 10:21 AM

Perhaps you have made some inquiries on your own about the number and intellectual quality of college students who plan to go to medical school, which generated some information that you can share with us. I have, through the method I mentioned, and it is clear to me that the Obamacare process is causing many qualified candidates to turn away from medical school, which is a bad thing for our country.
Happy New Year.

GaltBlvnAtty on December 31, 2009 at 12:20 PM

Most of those who enter the medical field under Obamacare will do so at the local community college. There as now they can receive AA degrees in nursing and Physician Assistants, which will be providing most of the medical care to the public under Obamacare. Those that obtain a BA degree will be qualified to supervise other nurses and PA’s, evaluate more seriously ill patients that require a doctors attention, or perform more serious procedures such as abortions.
Those aspiring to become actual doctors will be encouraged to do so under the Obamacare doctor program that awards a PHD in Medical supervision, general practice and internal medicine in six years. Doctors with this degree will only be required to do six months internship in supervisory medicine in clinic that is located in an area where attracting good supervisory doctors is difficult or needed for cultural balance. Doctors that seek to specialize in areas not approved for Obamacare or for private practice or a medical specialization will still be required to A PHD and complete the residency requirements of their field as currently established.
Doctors and PA’s that wish to extend their specialization may do so with through correspondence courses, seminars or weekend classes.

/s

Franklyn on January 2, 2010 at 2:29 PM