Michael Kinsley on age discrimination law

The Bloomberg columnist explains his qualms about the law, playing off the Nicholas Spaeth case, in which a 60-year-old lawyer who had achieved a distinguished career in public office was turned down by every law school at which he sought to teach, and is suing many of them. “Was the law ever intended to protect baby boomers in no particular financial distress looking for a suitable capstone to a successful career?” And suits over hiring are of course the exception; rather more often, the law supplies the legal leverage to obtain a larger severance when someone bows out of such a career. I’ve written on the subject here (in Chapter 8 of The Excuse Factory), here, and here.


  • While there are reasonable arguments against the merits of this law, its ineffectiveness is not a product of the law itself, but of the Justice Dept’s failure — so far — to impose quotas on large companies, as they had to do to make the race-discrimination law actually work.

  • The Michael Kinsley Rule:

    When even a far left spectrum pundit recognizes an abusive law, its time to remove aforementioned law.

  • Kinsley isn’t far left.

  • Hiring cases are just so hard to prove anyway. Who knows why an individual employer did not agree to make a hire?

    Is it unfair for an employer to wonder whether the person’s career will be over as soon as they are up to speed to start making a meaningful contribution? Is it wrong for an employer to question whether someone who has already had success and does not need the job really has the “eye of the tiger” they would need to be successful?

    Certainly, there are cases like this where your reaction is “that’s unfair.” Whether it is an “unfair” for which there should be a legal remedy is the question. I don’t think it is an easy question.