Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Lack of candor comes in many forms

Another observation about last week's hearing on right to work. There was a false narrative about disinterest being pushed by the opponents of right to work, almost laughably portrayed by Gordon Lafer, who identified himself as an economics professor at the University of Oregon. Professor Lafer began with a show of how no one had paid him and he is an academic who goes where the evidence leads him. I am sure that he believes that and tries to conduct himself accordingly.

But no one paid me to be there either and I am a public interest lawyer and legal scholar who goes where the evidence leads me. I truly believe that and try to conduct myself accordingly.

But it takes incredible chutzpah for Professor Lafer to castigate others as ideological or interested, as he did in this op-ed criticizing a study on right to work by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. He is also a research associate at the left wing Economic Policy Institute. It receives funding from unions. It is every bit as "ideological" as WPRI.

What I will admit - and Professor Lafer apparently will not - is that, in a career that, like his, is now in its fourth decade, I think I've learned some things about the world and have some notions about how it works. In my case, this has lead to a libertarian conservative perspective. He has come to see things differently. But both of us would be fooling ourselves and misleading others if we denied having a perspective from which we've come to approach things.

This doesn't mean that I - and, I hope, Professor Lafer - will say anything or do bad work. I try very hard not to. If a particular legal argument won't work, I don't make it. WILL's research reports aspire to be accurate and thorough. None of us are free of confirmation bias and we all make mistakes, we try to do good work.

Senators Wirch and Larson made a show of pointing out that certain of the witnesses in favor of Right to Work did - or have - received funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Given the scope of Bradley's activities, all this means is that the speakers are active in the libertarian and conservative policy world. In other words, all it establishes is that they have a perspective that I, for one, am perfect willing to admit.

The ultimate irony, of course, is that Senator Wirch and Larson and the Democrats benefit substantially from coerced support of labor unions. They should be careful about asking cui bono (who benefits) lest some one hold up a mirror.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An absolute red herring argument against the work of Lafer. A good tactic, but completely transparent in its attempt to alter the trajectory of debate.
Perhaps, spending a modicum of time debating Lafer's evidence would bear more fruit than attacking the content of his character; but, perhaps not.