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The Incentives of the Dominant Majority and the Small Minority

Co-blogger John McGinnis has a recent post asking why the Federalist Society has more political diversity on its panels than the American Constitution Society. Of the possibilities that McGinnis suggests, the one that I think is most likely is the following:

The right is underrepresented among lawyers and radically underrepresented in the legal academy. The Federalist Society wants to get their ideas and people known and the best way of doing that in the left-leaning world is to have discussions with the other side to gain respectability or at least notoriety. The academy and even much of the established bar is much harder to distinguish from the ACS than from the Federalist Society. The ACS thus not does need to gain respectability as much and can concentrate more on resolving internal conflicts and pushing an agenda without brooking contradiction.

While I agree with McGinnis that a minority gains respectability by having discussions with the dominant group and the majority does not need to do this, I believe that there are other important motivations that underlie this behavior. (One important qualification: Since I don’t know what is in the minds of the ACS leaders, I don’t want to say that my explanation is necessarily correct. Instead, it should be thought of as a rational choice explanation: Given certain preferences and the structure of the legal world, progressives would seek very little political diversity.)

If a group predominates in the legal world, such as progressives do, one way to maintain your position is to make people believe that yours is the only acceptable view. You would do this by having only progressive speakers. You would not want to invite right wingers and suggest that their views are acceptable or part of the mainstream.

This uniformity is reinforced by allowing disagreements only between progressives. One is saying, these are the real issues – progressive type A versus progressive type B – not between progressives and right wingers. This type of exclusion is important in politics. People in politics respond strongly to social cues and allowing only certain ideas a seat at the table is a strong social indicator of acceptableness.

Another reason for this uniformity is that it does not respond to contrary ideas, but ridicules them. One cannot really do that when scholars who believe these ideas are present. But by excluding them, one can attack the straw man without fear of counterattack.

Finally, people from the dominant group may enjoy these type of presentations more. In politics, people usually don’t want to hear the other side. Thus, audiences may be bigger if there is uniformity.

There will, of course, be a cost to this strategy. It means that, as far as conferences serve to educate people, progressives will be less adept at responding to right wing arguments. But if progressives dominate the field, the right wing arguments will be rare and the other considerations will far outweigh this one.

In addition to the behavior of ACS, rational choice theory also supports the greater interest in political diversity of the Federalist Society. A group with a small minority of the legal world will need to learn how to critique the dominant group. The members of the minority will constantly be thrown in with members of the dominant group and therefore need to be able to criticize that view and to defend their own view. There is no benefit from hiding those majority views at a Federalist Society conference, because Federalist Society members will be exposed to them in any event.

Reader Discussion

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on January 09, 2018 at 10:14:45 am

Rappaport "nails it":

"Another reason for this uniformity is that it does not respond to contrary ideas, but ridicules them"

As evidenced by a recent post from one of the Progressive trolls frequenting this site in which the troll links to one of the numerous *scientific* polls that *demonstrates that right thinking individuals are "less informed" than their MSNBC counterparts (or, as in other *studies* that demonstrate, "conclusively" of course, that right thinking individuals are stupid, less tolerant or, who knows have less sex or something.

Can one conclude from these efforts that Lefties are, at root, insecure, but as "People in politics respond strongly to social cues", it is essential to present the proper posture so as to convince themselves that they are not only correct but dominant.

This, we get the idiotic phenomenon of commentariat paying attention to the mindless inanities of 2nd & 3rd rate comedians, diet-obsessed (and obviously failing) weight gurus, and Hollywood nincompoops.

The commentariat on the right ought to simply disregard these people - why give them any further exposure.

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gabe
on January 09, 2018 at 13:04:33 pm

The law was not always progressive. Infact, there were times when the law was constitutionally orthodox meaning if it wasn't explicitly stated in the constitution then it wasn't supported by the Supreme Court or the judicial branch. Judicial activism was seen as incompetence.

I speak of fact here not prejudice. It is common knowledge that the majority of jews are liberal democrats, progressives and some go even further to the left being socialists and Marxists. It is also common knowledge that about 80% of the Ivy League is jewish. However there was a time when there were limitations on jews attending college. They felt it wrong that jews comprising 1% of the population should be educated to rule over 100% of the population so the 80%-90+% Christians because they were the dominant majority and should therefore represent the dominant majority of the Ivy League. in education.

I POSE THIS QUESTION: IF IT WAS WRONG AND UNFAIR TO LIMIT JEWISH PARTICIPATION IN THE ELITE IVY LEAGUE AND POSSIBLY ALL HIGHER LEVEL COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES BY THE DOMINANT MAJORITY THEN WHY IS IT NOT WRONG TO LIMIT REPUBLICAN AND CONSERVATIVE SPEAKERS ON CAMPUS, NOT WRONG TO LABEL REPUBLICAN AND CONSERVATIVE STUDENTS/FACULTY AS RACISTS AND FASCISTS AND SPEAKERS OF HATE. WHY IS IT WRONG / WHY IS THEIR OPPOSITION TO FEDERALIST SOCIETY SPEAKING AND DEBATING ACS?

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LouisM
on January 10, 2018 at 12:17:18 pm

Louis:

I understand what you are TRYING to say BUT please check your numbers. The Ivy league is NOT 80% Jewish and such a statement may belie your stated opposition to discriminatory practices.

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A heathen among Ivory Gentiles
on January 10, 2018 at 13:03:37 pm

Rappaport's post highlights how similar political opinions are to religious opinions.

The impulse to label divergent opinions as heretical and then take steps silence the heretic is a common feature of all state sponsored religions and established political parties. If that doesn't work, in both politics and religion, the impulse is then to kill the heretic.

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EK
on February 10, 2018 at 14:25:38 pm

Your arguments are spot on. One only needs to see Dinesh D'Souza taking on a left wing progressive student ( in any of the numerous You Tube video's available) and carefully take apart their "arguments". I have found myself in the same situation on the job where I am always a distinct minority. To extrapolate on your point; when I ask the opposition to back up their points with details they look at me as if I violated some sacred taboo. They however never have a qualm to ask me to back up every point in detail. I have recently changed my approach by answering " why should I do your work for you? "

I can therefor sum up the entire argument using the following work from the Newspeak dictionary. We are accused o f committing thought crime and they practice duck speak

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Jeffrey Cantelope

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