National Review on Judicial Ethics and GMU's Law and Econ Center

Cite this Article
Joshua D. Wright, National Review on Judicial Ethics and GMU's Law and Econ Center, Truth on the Market (June 29, 2006),

This National Review editorial defends George Mason’s Law and Economics Center from what it describes as “junk ethics” charges.  My colleague Ilya Somin has picked up the story at Volokh.  In the comments to Ilya’s post, GMU Foundation Professor and Associate Dean Frank Buckley, Director of the LEC, responds to some of the charges that have been directed at the LEC (i.e. corporate donations are buying judges votes, anonymous donors allow corporations to do so freely, the lectures are part of a right-wing conspiracy, etc.):

At this point corporate support is less than 10% of total support for the Mason judges program. That’s not surprising when you consider that the last program was on Samuel Johnson and the next one is on Mathew Arnold and High Culture. Or is all corporate support bad? In which case, you’ll have a problem with the Lyric Opera, not to mention every American university. 

As for keeping the identity of donors confidential, and keeping them wholly away from the judges, can anyone seriously suggest that this is troubling? You want them to schmooze with the judges, the way lobbyists do with Congressmen? That’s supposed to be the ethical thing to do? It’s a good deal harder to show appreciation for a donor if you don’t know his name. 

Does it matter that the Mason lecturers are the leading scholars anywhere, that its readings are posted on its web site, that no one has or could have a problem with them, that people like Larry Kramer, Gordon Wood, John Searle, David Bromwich, Jasper Griffin, Joe Ellis, Cass Sunstein and Marcia Angell lecture for it, that without Mason lecturers the NYRB would have trouble publishing, that lecturers are asked to stay away from hot button topics, that global warming, environmental issues, asbestosis, abortion, tobacco, etc. are simply not mentioned in Mason programs, that no judge has ever complained of the content of the programs or lectures? Does it matter that the programs are academically intensive, that there are no entertainment or hospitality events? Does it matter that judges such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg have praised our programs? And does it matter that Mason programs this year are on subjects as varied as Renaissance Humanism, David Hume, Abraham Lincoln, and the principles of microeconomics? Because if none of that matters, the complaints can be made only by bitter ideologues blinded by an ignorance of or animus against the life of the mind.

*In the interests of full disclosure, I have received summer research support from the LEC.