The Corner


Elite Interests Dominate Public Discourse

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A longstanding theme of mine is this: The policymaking conversation is always dominated by elite interests and elite obsessions: Ivy League admissions standards, not the high-school dropout rate in Milwaukee.

From today’s Wall Street Journal: “Law-Firm Clients Demand More Black Attorneys: Microsoft, Uber and U.S. Bancorp are among the companies urging law firms to enlist diverse legal teams.”

I wish the nation’s black lawyers well (or at least as well as I wish the nation’s lawyers at large), but I have a suspicion: that of all the most urgent concerns and serious challenges faced by black Americans, the state of black Americans who have graduated from law school and become licensed attorneys is not very close to the top of the list.

A nudge from Microsoft or U.S. Bancorp might prove very valuable to a high-achieving black lawyer who is in or somewhere adjacent to the universe of lawyers of the sort who represent such companies, but that is pretty rarefied company to begin with.

It’s a bit like the question of affirmative action at Harvard, a policy that is of interest mainly to people who are right on the cusp of either being admitted to Harvard or having to take some disappointing second-best choice such as Cornell or Stanford. People who end up at Duke because they just missed getting into Harvard are going to do just fine in life. Lawyers earning in the 85th percentile instead of the 92nd percentile are going to do just fine in life. It’s others who most need our attention.