I've been reading Michael Gard's very interesting (and surprisingly funny) book The End of the Obesity Epidemic, which has special interest for me because he devotes a chapter to critiquing the work of what he calls "obesity skeptics," in particular that of Glenn Gaesser, Eric Oliver, and myself.
While Gard seems to agree with most of what the skeptics have to say, he does take us to task for going too far, in his view, in impugning the motives of those who are profiting from fat panic. On reflection I believe much of this criticism is well taken: after more than a decade of engagement on this issue I've come to the conclusion that outright corruption among what I think of affectionately as the obesity mafia is much less common than genuine ideologically driven and culturally determined delusion.
A similar danger exists for critics of the current structure of legal academia. I named this blog Inside the Law School Scam for two reasons: to signal fundamental solidarity with the scam blog movement, and to indicate that, whatever the personal motives of people inside legal academia might be, law school has come to function as a scam in regard to the economic relations that exist between, on the one hand, legal academics and university administrators, and on the other, law students and law graduates.
A disadvantage of this approach is what might be called the innocent grifter defense: if particular individuals or institutional collectives of such people have, in all sincerity, no intention whatsoever of scamming anyone, and indeed will be sincerely horrified by any suggestion that they are doing so, how can one properly call the activity in which they're engaged a scam?
The answer, of course, is that from the perspective of the people being harned by the economic structure of the activity, it makes little if any practical difference whether those profiting from the harm have any intention of harming those people from whose injuries they are profiting, or indeed any consciousness that they are causing these harms.
(The parallels with the most sincere obesity warriors should be obvious. I'm sure the last thing Michelle Obama wants to do is to stigmatize fat kids. I'm equally confident that this desire is fundamentally irrelevant to the fact that her campaign to "end childhood obesity within a generation" does in fact have this effect).
Arguments about the presence or absence of good or bad intentions are ultimately distractions. We could assume that every single person in legal academia who rejects the idea that law school has become indistinguishable as a functional matter from a conscious scam does so with utmost sincerity and the purest of hearts. Yet this would make no difference to the analysis, in the fundamental sense that such an assumption doesn't create a single new job or pay down a dollar of any graduate's debt.
What this blog has been in large part about has been raising consciousness inside and around legal academia that what we intend our work to accomplish bears increasingly less relation to what our work does accomplish. And, in the language of tort law, once that consciousness has been raised sufficiently, our harmful actions become fully "intentional" in the sense that we know what will result from them, no matter how sincerely we may not intend that result.