Affluence and Accidents and Ad Hominems

Stephanie Mencimer, in a trolling post I really should just ignore, suggests that reformers are just “overprivileged white guys” who have “never flipped a burger” or driven an American car and whose “private schooling and Ivy League bona fides” mean we just want to stick it to the little guy.

Should I even respond? She’s right that I didn’t flip burgers; I just cleaned the restrooms and shelved milk at the local supermarket for $3.35/hour, manning the registers when the manager could bear the complaints about the checkout boy who was too stupid to know the difference between nectarines and peaches when ringing up produce. My brother did fry chicken at the Church’s down the street, however. But that doesn’t make my policy arguments any more correct. Nor does it make my arguments any more right because I spent weekends as a teenager going through dumpsters with my unemployed father as we looked for discarded Sunday newspapers because of the coupon inserts in them that we could hoard and use on triple-coupon day at the local grocery, or that I took a ninety-minute ride on public transportation (Algiers bus downtown, then St. Charles Ave. streetcar) to my racially-mixed public high school, or that I turned down admissions at both Yale undergrad and Yale Law because I couldn’t afford their financial aid packages, or that I didn’t own a car until a couple of weeks before my 29th birthday (and then it was a out-of-model-year Chevy Malibu that I bought by saving points on a GM credit card that I had maxed out), or that my 1999 third-quarter bonus was a cause for celebration because it allowed me to reach zero net worth, any more than it makes Mencimer’s arguments wrong because she lives in a house twice as large as mine and assessed at over a million dollars and, as a freelancer that doesn’t employ anyone, has little chance of directly suffering the consequences of lawsuit abuse and is wealthy enough not to feel the full pain of its indirect effects on job creation or consumer prices.

I stumbled into being a reformer because I saw first-hand that the litigation system wasn’t working; that judges were making lawless rulings; that plaintiffs were bringing and winning bogus products liability suits; that there were magnet jurisdictions where meritless class actions were being brought and rubber-stamped certified by elected judges; that entrepreneurs were being crushed by litigation expenses, sometimes at the behest of hourly lawyers who oversold them on the possibilities of being a plaintiff in circumstances troublingly close to self-dealing. (That the very first case I worked on was a sudden acceleration suit did a lot to disillusion me about Ralph Nader’s gang of lawyers: while the plaintiffs’ bar was going on at great length about cruise controls whose magic defect was more likely to strike elderly and short drivers, their noise was drowning out consumer awareness of legitimate safety improvements like shift-interlock.)

Mencimer’s analysis is a simplistic one: Republicans support reform; Mencimer doesn’t like Republicans; therefore, reform is bad, to the point that she knee-jerkingly defends a lawsuit over a flag accident brought against Dixie Flag—who didn’t even manufacture the flag or flagpole.

I’m a reformer for the same reason I became a lawyer: because I care about justice and fairness, and now recognize that the long-term damage short-sighted attorneys do to our economy through externalities is sorely underaddressed.

To the extent that education does prevent accidents, think of the good Mencimer could do if she trained her sights on what lawyers have done to the public school systems (also: Nov. 14, 2003). A shame that she’s instead carrying water for the millionaires of ATLA, and fairly thoughtlessly at that. It’s all fun and games to bash the insurance companies until the innocent lose their jobs.


  • GAWD what a vile attitude she has!

    tort reform is easy, REMOVE the money from the attorneys and you will see tort reform!

    We will also seem most items being settled long before a courthouse can even hit the radar!

  • Well stated.

    (nice Jerry McGuire moment/paragraph, too.)

  • So what exactly IS the difference between a nectarine and a peach? This 40-something Ph.D. scientist and foodie isn’t exactly sure…

  • OK, that second paragraph just hurts to read. What a tool she is. (And I mean that with the utmost disrespect.)

    Nectarines technically are peaches, but generally, a “peach” has fuzz, which a nectarine doesn’t.

  • OK — I admit it. I’m overprivileged, white, and male!

    But hey, I went to public middle school and high school in small town North Carolina; and my later Ivy League schooling notwithstanding, I went to my state’s public university for my undergraduate education. I’ve owned 3 cars in my life, 2 Fords and a Mercury.

    I also enjoy tobacco (cigars), alcohol (of all types), fast food (especially that cooked in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils), and even guns (I spent many an Ivy League day captaining the Yale Skeet and Trap team). So I guess I should be self-satisfied in my selflessness, because under the theories Mencimer likes to defend, I sure need my plaintiffs’ bar!

  • I partly resemble Mencimer’s comments (White, yes. Ivy, yes. Private school, no. American cars, yes, until my most recent one. Flipping burgers, yes, in college.)

    But isn’t she implicitly — though definitely not explicitly — conceding the point many of us make: that many of the injuries which lead to suits are the fault of the “victim’s” stupidity?

  • Mencimer’s racialization reminds me of Peter Brimelow’s definition of a “racist”:

    Someone who’s winning an argument with a liberal.

  • DW,

    Wow – I LOVE that definition! It fits at last as often as the real one, probably more!

  • In his book “Alien Nation”, Brimelow (1) compares an INS waiting room to the New York subways (“you find yourself in an underworld that is not just teeming but also almost entirely colored”), (2) refers to foreigners (in Brimelowease only non-whites qualify as foreigners) as “weird aliens with dubious habits” and (3), on numerous occassions, expresses concern that his blond-haired, blue-eyed son would grow up in an Amercia where whites were no longer the majority.

    I am not certain that I would laud anything that comes from the pen or mouth of Brimelow.

  • “I am not certain that I would laud anything that comes from the pen or mouth of Brimelow.”

    Ad hominem. He may indeed make many inaccurate and objectionable statements (i really have no idea), but each stands alone. To put it another way, the author of the statement has no bearing on it’s accuracy.

    See the recent Duke non-rape scandal for multiple perfect examples of “racist” being used by liberals to mean anyone opposed to them (especially when the liberals in question are the ones actually being racist!).