Sunday, December 6, 2009

This is NOT progressive behavior, and I heartily disapprove.

While interviewing law students for jobs as paid summer interns and full-time associates for my firm, I noticed several had résumés listing their activities in the Federalist Society. Some of my partners have conservative views similar to those of the society, but I do not. These students’ politics would not affect their professional function, but my review is meant to consider their judgment and personality (though I don’t need to give reasons for the assessments given). May I recommend not hiring someone solely because of his or her politics?

What did Name Withheld choose to do?

Believing that all the applicants were qualified, but able to hire only a few, this person recommended rejecting each member of the Federalist Society.


navah said...

(If you could see me, you'd see that my jaw is open) That is absurd! So unbelievably close minded and arrogant. If I was that person's boss, I would fire HIM/HER for exercising poor judgment.

davebk said...

Maybe I’m just being ornery (or playing devil’s advocate), but it doesn’t seem quite so cut and dried to me. Certainly one’s activities and beliefs have some bearing on suitability for employment. Suppose they listed on their resume that they were a member of the KKK? Or that they were a militant Marxist? Or that they enjoyed torturing bunny rabbits?

True, being a member of the Federalist Society likely doesn’t betray quite the amount of poor judgment as those activities, but it is certainly arguable that it might call into question the applicant’s judgment. Actually, I’d probably tend to think that anyone who doesn’t subscribe to my ideals is exhibiting poor judgment, is badly informed, or just doesn’t care (otherwise why should I hold those ideals?). Obviously there is a range of beliefs centered around my own that I’ll accept as generally reasonable, but the further their beliefs are from mine, the more I have to call into question their rationality, objectivity, character, and judgment.

navah said...

davebk - whether you were playing devil's advocate of being ornery, it definitely worked. i couldn't disagree with you more :)

i think that believing that anyone who doesn't subscribe to your ideals is exhibiting bad judgment is close minded and arrogant. The difference between someone believing in the KKK and belonging to the Federalist Society are huge. A person who is a member of the KKK or a militant Marxist believes and advocates for a different final outcome for society. They either want white supremacy or communism. A Federalist and a Democrat or member of ACS (or whatever the opposite of a Federalist is) believes in the same ultimate outcome--they want a successful America, less poverty, a thriving middle class, respect for their civil liberties, etc. They just may not agree with you on what is the best way to get there or what the top priorities should be.

Politicized hiring, whether it is in the private sector or the public sector is also bad for business. Part of being an attorney is being able to figure out what the other side will argue and counter that argument. But if you surround yourself with a thousand monkeys who all think the same as you do and have a similar world view, then you are limiting your creative thinking and breadth of opinions around you.

saisai said...

dave i think this might be a good time to review your benevolent dictatorship theory whereby you get to rule the world and shoot all the people who disagree with you most vehemently and objectionably? and make the world a better place too of course.

davebk said...

I don't want to be the dictator! That's a lot of work. I just want whoever it is to hold my views.

Naturally there’s a huge difference between the KKK and the Federalist Society. That’s why I chose it, to make my argument easier. I think it’s probably a sort of bell curve, where the people in the fringes are unacceptable for just about anything, but the vast majority of people can contribute positively to society. The question for each individual is how far out in the fringes is acceptable.

As for the outcome of society argument, everyone wants to improve society, but we all disagree about what that society should look like. Jim DeMint, Olympia Snowe, and Bernie Sanders all want to improve America, but DeMint’s version of America is very different from mine.

My point about ideals was a philosophical one: why should I hold my specific views if I don’t believe them to be the best? Given that I do believe them to be best, other views cannot be best. The holders of other views may believe their views to be best (in fact, must do so if they are rational), but I necessarily must think they are wrong. Why should they continue to hold incorrect views unless they: (a) don’t understand something relating to the issues, (b) are exhibiting bad judgment, or (c) don’t care? (The argument obviously also works in reverse, so in their opinion I’m wrong). The question for me in my interactions with others is then the degree of their misunderstanding, misjudgment, or malaise. A member of the Klan is likely to hold views so far out of whack with my own that I see no possible way that in actuality I am in the wrong rather than they. With DeMint, I’m probably pretty confident that he’s in the wrong. The differences between Sanders’ views and my own are small enough so that I can’t be confident that he’s the one exhibiting bad judgment. There is necessarily a range of other people’s opinions that I have to consider possibly reasonable, but outside of that range I see no way the person can possibly be exercising good judgment.

The question in Sai’s post seems to relate to how narrow of a range is reasonable, and it’s very likely that the person in the post had an unreasonably narrow range, but it certainly makes for an interesting debate.