International Stuff

UK Media: Adam Smith Was a Marxist

Before the UK parliamentary election a few weeks ago, the Internet kept directing me to what I surmise was mostly conservative media reporting on the Labour Party’s proposed *horrors* land-value tax, aka “garden tax.” I’m not sure if “garden” here is the Anglo version of what I would think of as a grassy backyard, but it’s very surprising that collecting location rents for public finance was both a significant issue in the days before the election and didn’t result in a loss for for the party advocating it. That’s probably the best news I’ll report on all year.

Labour’s platform included a position in favor of “considering” replacing some taxes with a land-value tax. “We will initiate a review into reforming council tax and business rates and consider new options such as a land value tax, to ensure local government has sustainable funding for the long term,” reported the Mirror.

Yet the Conservative opposition treated “consider new options” as though Labour had a bill in hand, and the sputtering from Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond was illuminating. Articles published by The Telegraph and the Daily Mail quoted these men as saying that the tax would:

  • “Bring misery to every single family in Britain”
  • “Wreck the economy”
  • “Devastate farmers”
  • “Increase food costs”
  • “Attack land on Marxist principles”

A good chunk of this is politicized anti-tax paranoia. “They talked about taxes in their manifesto. That must mean they’re coming for you!” It’s interesting in itself, however, that the Tories’ audience must be yeomen landowners as opposed to renters or condo dwellers. Then there’s the Marxism stuff, which just demonstrates their ignorance. If they were familiar with capitalism’s talisman, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, they would have come across book V, chapter 2, in which the author advocates taxes on the ground-rent of houses. So yes, Tories think Adam Smith was a Marxist.

More bizarre is the obsession with farmers. Supposing that a land tax did raise food-production costs, which it would not, why would it be somehow worse than the other taxes farmers pay? Is it because farmers are really connected to the land? Does that mean I work at a floating desk? Why don’t we hear about overtaxed urbanites who are really connected to commerce? Don’t taxes on their incomes raise their labor costs? (Hint: They do.)

Oh, and did I mention that Labour’s not advocating a tax on gardens but on the locational value of the space occupied by gardens?

Anyhow, the articles mistakenly cite 3 percent of the value of people’s property as the tax’s rate. Rather, the foundation for this statement originates with the Labour Land Campaign, which explicitly recommends beginning with a 0.85 percent rate on owner-occupied real estate—not 3 percent. (More here.) Neither of the articles’ factual errors have been corrected.

The Telegraph article also says, “Opponents of the tax say it would cause house prices to plummet, putting homeowners at risk of negative equity and forcing families to sell off their gardens to developers to lessen their tax burden.” First, it’s not a tax on houses—just where they happen to be. Second, why are housing shortages caused by undeveloped real estate a good thing? Third, why are the opponents against affordable housing? Notwithstanding the possibility of negative consequences to some homeowners, the Telegraph doesn’t find anyone to answer these questions.

And you thought American media was bad.

The good news is that Labour won (and no, I’m not a Corbynite), and the Labour Land Campaign’s thankless work resulted in positive coverage when anyone bothered to check their facts. It’s well earned.

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‘Law Deans Are Running Bait and Switch Operation’

…In Australia.

Yes folks, y’all can add Down Under to the list of countries with too many law students chasing too few legal jobs, according to a surprisingly scathing opinion piece in The Australian Financial Review by a law instructor at Macquarie University.

A few quotes:

“Law student numbers are out of hand. Nearly 15,000 finish their degree each year, and enter a market where there are only 66,000 solicitors.” Yikes.

“Law deans are running a bait and switch operation. They hold out the promise of a legal career, while adding to the unemployment queue.”

Finally:

“[The deans’] claim that the legal problems undertaken in law tutorials are a platform for a generalist degree – that will see students who miss out on a job as a lawyer well placed to enter other high-paid spheres of the economy – is a self-serving myth.”

All this is just more evidence that American legal education does a better job of training law deans to advocate their positions than other countries do. The best they can offer here is the versatile-law-degree argument, but if they want to avoid a government crackdown, they’ll have to lean on increasing diversity in the profession or at least gussy up what they have with some kind of human-capital analysis. Otherwise, these Southern Hemispherians will end up like their Japanese counterparts.

Saudi Arabia Channels the Gracchi Brothers

Facing a housing shortage of 1.5 million homes, Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council approved a 2.5 percent tax on undeveloped land in urban areas, according to Bloomberg. King Salman has the final say, but he gave initial approval in March.

Coincidentally, shares for development companies have fallen. It could be causation, and if so, it shows that even talking about land taxes wipes out speculation.

The article offers more than one assertion that the goal is overwhelmingly stimulative and not directly revenue-related. Oil prices have fallen substantially, and Saudi Arabia has no income tax, so it’s not getting the revenue it once did. It’s almost as though the government is being defensive about the whole thing.

Another goal is increasing “middle-class homeownership” over renting. In short, Saudi Arabia is facing the same problems the Roman Republic did after the Punic Wars: restless landless citizens. The populares, led by Tiberias, and later, Gaius Gracchus, tried to force land reforms, but they were murdered by the optimates. The optimates resisted later “land for loyalty” policies, but Roman generals embraced them, hence the empire. Land-for-loyalty a good strategy so long as the majority is mollified: Promise future rents to as many—but not all, and not equally—people as possible, and you can keep your superior cut.

As for the revenue the Saudi government can expect from the scheme, as always, remember three things:

(1) Gross rent is the independent variable,

(2) Gross rent is the independent variable, and

(3) Gross rent is the independent variable.

…Which means that the final assessed land value itself is an ephemeral number. It melts away as you tax it. The gross rental value is a real, periodic quantity, e.g. per year. (And if you complain it’s an imputed sum, I offer to buy the right to that flow value from you for $1.00 until death or transfer.) Thus, a parcel that rents at $100,000 annually will have a different land value depending on how much of it is taxed. This is not to say that capitalized land values are fictitious numbers or can’t be calculated. Rather, it just means that when the Saudi government says it’ll tax these vacant parcels at a 2.5 percent rate, you need to think it through more than if it were a just 2.5 percent tax on their gross rents.

For example:

Current assessed land value: $2,000,000

Capitalization rate, no taxes: 5.0%

Therefore, current annual rent: $2,000,000 x 0.05 = $100,000.

Now let’s add a 2.5% tax on the land value:

New assessed land value: $100,000 gross rent / (0.05 + 0.025) = $1,333,333.33 land value.

NOT: 2,000,000 x 0.0725. That’s wrong!

Land-value tax revenue (which will come out of gross rent!): $1,333,333.33 x 0.025 = $33,333.33.

Tax rate on the gross rent: $33,333.33 / $100,000 = 33.33%

The $666,666.67 in capitalized land value melts away because of the tax.

Consequently, although it sounds trivial, a 2.5 percent LVT turns out to be a huge amount, depending on the capitalization rate. The lower it is, the higher the tax revenue. I’m sure the Shoura Council knows this.

The other benefit of this arithmetic exercise is answering the question: How much building is necessary to escape the tax? Answer: Trick question. The answer has little to do with the numbers; it comes up even in U.S. cities when people talk about taxing vacant parcels. The easiest way to evade the tax, onerous though it is, is to put a small, halal hot-dog stand on the property. Okay, maybe you want to put a little more on there, but if real-estate speculation is your thing, expect minimal effort.

This explains why I favor full LVT over partial measures. Even if Saudi Arabia adopts the tax and the phase-in isn’t too long, it might not alleviate the housing crisis. But it sure beats being toppled by Gaius Marius or Julius Caesar.

Government Finally Tells Private Law Schools to Slash Tuition, Faculty

…In Korea.

The country’s Ministry of Education wants people from poorer backgrounds to be able to practice law, so its solution is to demand law schools charge less and offer more need-based scholarships, according to The Korea Times.

Average private law school tuition is a scandalous $17,152 annually (it takes about five years, as I discussed last year). The plan calls for a 15 percent tuition cut at Korea’s fifteen private law schools, which would put it below $15,000. The article isn’t clear as to whether public law schools would be affected.

Just to show you that there’s nothing new under the sun, the law schools complained that they’re under financial strain already, with faculty taking up ~$24.0 million while tuition revenue is only $19.7 million. Using math against ABA data for the 2013-14 academic year, I get an average $10.6 million to private law schools (excl. Brigham Young, Pontifical Catholic, and Inter American) from full-time students paying full tuition. I doubt the total is more than $15 million.

The government’s response: “[T]hey can lower the tuition if they restructure their high-cost faculty system.”

Indeed, the faculty numbers the article gives are bizarre: The government’s standard is 312, but they have—and I think this is an average—537. That comes to 8,055 faculty for … 6,021 students at all 25 law schools, which implies a student/faculty ratio well below one. Again, for comparison, in the U.S., the average number of full-time faculty (current definition) at private law schools rose from 35.4 in 1999 to 43.2 in 2014 (peak 48.9 in 2012). We could also easily get by with fewer profs and fewer schools.

Maybe there’s something off in the reporting, and I’m not sure how the ministry can encourage the law schools to cut their tuition levels if they don’t want to. Nonetheless, it makes you wonder whether the law-school system fails wherever it’s tried.

Henry George 2015: TPP or Free Trade?

Last week, I ran across former Dallas Fed president Bob McTeer’s defense of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Forbes. Interestingly, McTeer opens with quotes by Henry George on international trade. In 1886 George wrote a book on the subject, titled, “Protection or Free Trade,” in which he attacked tariffs and protectionism. More than once I’ve seen trade advocates cite his position on the subject without reference to his analyses of production factors (which ineluctably leads to his advocacy for land-value taxation) or technological unemployment. It’s one of George’s other hats as an economist.

McTeer believes George would probably favor the TPP, which I think misreads George and the times in which he was writing. Throughout the 19th century the U.S. government’s primary source of revenue was tariffs. The persuasiveness of the Hamiltonian bases for them is debatable. I happen to think the U.S. prospered in the 1800s despite the tariffs, not thanks to them. Read an example here.

However, aside from the income tax that was enacted during the Civil War (and which was later found unconstitutional), the only alternatives for funding the federal government were asset sales and direct taxes, which the constitution requires to be apportioned among the states by population. Consequently, although the government wasn’t nearly as expansive as it became in the 20th century, George’s writings on free trade were inextricably connected to his demand for public recovery of land rents. He criticized income taxes as a tax on honesty, which they are.

So, to a large degree, George’s attack on tariffs wasn’t simply Ricardian comparative advantage. Additionally, there’s the problem of McTeer’s characterization of the TPP as the kind of free trade agreement George would probably support. George’s animating virtue was fairness, operationalized against monopoly power. He attacked Western Union for its control over the telegraphs just as he did landowners, for example.

I’m not going to put words in George’s zombified mouth, but there are two weaknesses with the TPP that anti-monopolists should be aware of that McTeer doesn’t specify. One, much of the TPP is concerned with protecting intellectual property rights, e.g., drug patents and Microsoft software copyrights. I forget George’s position on copyrights, patents, and trademarks, but those are monopolies, and these days they’re quite abused. Two, the TPP is not going to increase trade by much. It might reduce tariffs in other countries, but if we believe in free trade then that’s the other countries’ problem, not ours. I’ve heard other criticisms of the TPP as secretive and anti-democratic, which McTeer doesn’t discuss. Nor am I convinced it will somehow contain China as the Obama administration has maintained. Why would it?

McTeer’s argument is weak in other respects. He’s correct when he says that jobs lost to imports are substituted by jobs gained by exports, even though the former is more evident that the latter. What I haven’t seen is a discussion of how easily those who lose jobs find commensurate jobs in other fields. Are former coal miners easily retrained for jobs in coastal cities marketing American products overseas? Labor isn’t infinitely fungible, and I’ve never seen this point addressed.

McTeer then dismisses the trade deficit claiming its only been around for several years and is “fairly stable.” The U.S. has had a net trade deficit for just about my entire life with only a small break in the early 1990s. A lot of it is due to foreign oil imports that are wasted on commuting, which again is a land use problem. (It’s amazing how shortsighted people are about energy.) Another chunk of it is due to chronic currency manipulation by trading partners, notably China in recent years. China “sterilized” dollars flowing into it to keep them away from its people—like the Social Security trust fund without the Social Security part. Free trade for us, not China.

McTeer then waves these concerns away by explaining that the surplus in the U.S. capital account compensates for losses in trade. (Technically, the trade deficit and the current account deficit aren’t identical.) In other words, the paper or electronic money we export comes back as investment. There are reasons to be dubious. As I would hope George would have recognized, foreign investment is just as likely to go to fixed factors as productive ones. If foreigners gobble up real estate, and we don’t tax it, that just transfers our productivity to them. Secondly, if foreign governments buy up our public debt, our interest rates fall, which might contribute to land bubbles. It also doesn’t help our developing trade partners when they’re exporting their capital to us. The flow should go the other way.

[UPDATE: An intriguing article on VoxEU discusses excessive capital inflows that accompany current account deficits, leading to production shifts from manufacturing to non-tradable sectors, i.e. construction. The authors refer to the phenomenon as the “financial resource curse.”]

For these reasons, I doubt the TPP is as much of a test of Americans’ economic literacy as McTeer claims it to be. It isn’t an obvious conflict between domestic monopolies and foreign competition.

America’s Doomed Democracy, or Vox’s Adventure in the ‘Prophetic Fallacy’

A few of my grad school buddies referred me to Vox‘s “American Democracy is Doomed,” by Matthew Yglesias. My erstwhile colleagues crowed in agreement with the author about how everyone is complacent, believing that IT can’t happen here, IT being a cataclysmic collapse of the U.S. government, possibly (hopefully?) including chaos, rioting, hyperinflation, etc. You know, the kind of stuff that only happens in other people’s countries.

As a one-time student of comparative politics (obviously) I’m ambivalent of discussions of IT. On the one hand, yes, IT can happen here, and IT is more likely to occur when Americans think they’re immune to IT for no better reason than “America the fuck-yeah.” On the other hand, Vox‘s argument isn’t nearly as persuasive as my colleagues wish.

To summarize: In times of political gridlock, presidential systems, characterized by their separation of powers between the executive and the legislature, are structurally weaker than parliamentary governments. The latter can rely on flexible legal mechanisms to form governments and do the people’s work, or if not, elect a new government that does. Vox says that the current gridlock in the U.S. government is due to polarization over ideology rather than patronage opportunities as it was a century ago. Ideological polarization is more destabilizing because it’s far less open to compromise. Consequently, it’s no accident that we live in a political era of “Constitutional hardball,” in which the parties (legalistically) break with existing political norms to move their agendas forward. Presidents expand their power via executive orders, senators use the “nuclear option” to abolish filibuster rules, and state legislatures redraw their Congressional districts mid-decade.

Vox then predicts that a crisis will cause the U.S. system to fail in 20 to 30 years, its long stability only an accident of history. Our fate shall be that of Latin American banana republics—the states where presidential democracy goes to die. Everyone with sense uses parliamentary systems.

I admit I’m sympathetic to the structural argument against presidential democracy, but allow me to raise a few contrary points.

(1) We have really bad cases here.

There are structural reasons in favor of the United States’ future success. It’s in a temperate (for now) chunk of North America, a continent that lacks an east-west mountain range to break up weather patterns to blight us with rainy and dry seasons. Thus, its climate is as favorable to industrialization as to just producing commodities, which tends to devolve into corruption. It’s institutionally descended from competent British political structures, and its present government was founded by enlightenment junkies. The Constitution’s underrated Equal Footing Doctrine has helped create a federal republic that prevents one or two states from dominating all the others. Finally, its biggest domestic and constitutional disaster, the Civil War, might have been prevented if James Buchanan had more aggressively confronted secessionism as Andrew Jackson had two decades earlier. State governments, founded along the same model as the federal government, rarely suffer constitutional crises that require federal intervention. There is little evidence that the unicameral Nebraska is a beacon of democracy compared to the other fifty states.

In short, as of 1800, I don’t think betting against the U.S. was such a great idea, even if you allow for some variation in its leaders.

By contrast, Latin America is hot or mountainous. Its countries’ institutions are descended from extractive Spanish colonial systems, which have contributed to their replacement with ineffective revolutionary Marxist, macroeconomic populistic ones. They’re cursed with natural resources, including cocaine. Importantly, they also have a “size problem” vis-à-vis the United States. The U.S. is one large “successful” case compared to Latin America’s many smaller failures. U.S. policies can influence Latin American states more than vice-versa, e.g. the cocaine. (Changes in U.S. drug policies would be quite beneficial to Latin America, irrespective of their governments.)

The best example of presidential failure Vox can offer is Honduras’ 2008 constitutional crisis, but that’s a chronically poor, hot country. Perhaps Egypt in 2012-13 would have been a better example.

In sum, it’s not so obvious that parliamentary systems would serve these presidential countries better.

(2) Parliamentary systems don’t always work well either.

Vox raises examples of imposed parliamentary governments and cites them as successes, including Japan’s. Japan does not have a model parliamentary system. Its bicameral parliamentary legislature can cause needless gridlock, and the substantive organization of the more powerful lower house’s districts ensure than rural voters have very disproportionate representation compared to urban ones. In fact, many of Japan’s elections have been held unconstitutional by its own supreme court. Go figure. It is for structural reasons that the Liberal Democratic Party has been in power for decades and has so easily returned to power when it has lost it. During the Cold War, Japan could never be allowed to fail, despite its structural weaknesses (“over-strengths”?). The same goes for West Germany.

Parliamentary systems, for their part, have their own structural problems. Elected governments can recklessly enact damaging legislation that can’t be undone, like Margaret Thatcher’s government, which privatized many of the U.K.’s public utilities and left that country much worse off. Once privatized, utilities can’t be so easily unprivatized.

Parliaments can collapse too. Weimar Germany was totally gridlocked without intervention by President Hindenburg. That might be construed as an argument against presidential power, but the gridlock occurred within the legislature first, not between the legislature and the executive, and the Weimar president wasn’t a powerful, separate political institution as it is in the U.S., though he could select chancellors.

Finally, Europe with all its parliaments has done a worse job fixing their economies after the Great Recession. The U.S. response, while awful, has still been better. I hardly doubt anyone wants Hungary’s rigged parliament for themselves.

(3) Gridlock is the symptom, not the cause.

The more accurate description of the issue Vox is respond to is that democracy’s biggest problem, irrespective of systems of government, is when the minority rejects the legitimacy of the majority’s rule. In other words, the system’s failure doesn’t lead to the collapse; rather, the collapse leads to the system’s failure. The question we’re concerned with, though, is how does that play out institutionally? In Japan, the system is so lopsided that minority parties have token political power. As long as the people are mostly satisfied, though, they grit and bear it. This is barely a success.

In the U.S., there was one attempt at minority secession. Now, it appears the minority wants to rule the majority against its will. It can’t, so it digs its heels in at every turn. Here I found Vox to be straining to take the both-parties-are-responsible-for-gridlock line while feinting at self-satisfied centrists who regularly do so. Did the Senate Democrats use the filibuster to oppose judicial nominees in the mid-2000s? Yes. Does Obama assertively use executive orders (immigration prioritization) and existing legislation (the Clean Air Act on carbon emissions) to enact his agenda? Yes. Is that equivalent to Republicans who more recently threatened to default on the national debt or shut down the government to repeal a health care law? Ha ha. No.

When the parties are reversed, things work differently. If Democrats controlled Congress and faced a Republican president, they wouldn’t obstruct the budget, prevent the president from appointing his officers, or threaten to default on government bonds just to defund popular legislation. They might be pushovers as an opposition party, but they’re much more willing to patriotically compromise. Vox‘s counterpoint that George W. Bush was a gregarious fella (a debatable point) hated by Democrats ignores the fact that when Democrats did control Congress during his administration (barely), they didn’t wage a scorched earth campaign to utterly undermine him.

If anything, the lesson for Democrats is that they need to articulate to the public that the Republicans’ “Constitutional hardball” is selfish anti-majoritarianism, not principled opposition.

(4) Beware the “prophetic fallacy.”

I think Vox uses its structural arguments to then advance vague, unfalsifiable predictions about the future, the “prophetic fallacy.” Yes, some day every government will fall, and among them the U.S. will be appreciated as the nation-state that gave humanity popular sovereignty and the first lunar landings. But that’s not the same thing as successfully arguing that the U.S. government will fail for structural reasons whereas a parliamentary one would not. Vox ignores too many variables like geography, climate, history, and external international factors to make that case.

To some extent, Vox‘s argument shoehorns political reality (the “symptoms” in the previous section) into its structural thesis without discussing the future of that political reality. For one, the Republican Party supposedly has serious demographic problems. Simultaneously, it’s not an accident that Democrats’ presidential candidates regularly win the popular vote and northern and coastal states. Aside from not confronting Republican obstructionism more publicly, their biggest mistake is their watered-down economic policies against abstract inequality and pro-trade for the corporate elite. (But hey, we all know there are clear ideological differences between the parties, right?) The biggest reasons they don’t control Congress are gerrymandering in the House and slow turnover in the Senate. I don’t think anyone seriously expects Republican control come 2017.

Vox then resorts to fear-mongering:

What if a disputed presidential election coincided with a Supreme Court vacancy? What if the simultaneous deaths of the president and vice president brought to power a House Speaker from the opposite party? What if neither party secured a majority of electoral votes and a presidential election wound up being decided by a vote of the lame duck House of Representatives? What if highly partisan state legislatures start using their constitutional authority to rig the presidential contest?

Okay, I can play this game too. What if demographics and odious Republic presidential nominees help Democrats take over Congress? What if Congress then amends the Reapportionment Act to require states with more than five representatives to draw multimember proportional representation districts? What if global warming shifts party alignments to the wet east versus the dry west?

Vox just assumes political gridlock will go on forever without discussing why, and then it sneaks this assumption into its incomplete structural doom scenario.

My principal point in today’s frolic is to say that people shouldn’t be swayed by the mediocre comparative politics (and international politics) or the rhetorical sleight-of-hand Vox uses to argue that the U.S. constitutional system is doomed to collapse for structural reasons. I’m in favor of structural reform in the U.S., particularly making Congress more representative of the country and the president more vulnerable to Congressional disapproval, whether by lighter impeachment/conviction standards or shorter terms of office. Regular readers might be surprised to hear this, but I’m optimistic about what the U.S. will look like 20 to 30 years from now.

What I don’t want to see in 20 to 30 years from now is Vox writers—Yglesias or otherwise—using evidence of salutary political changes that contribute to systemic reform to vindicate this article. Vox promises humiliating crisis; the future had better deliver. IT ala Honduras does not equal “reform” like the Progressive Era. That’s the “prophetic fallacy.”

Japan Times Op-Ed Misdiagnoses U.S. Legal Education

Walt Gardner sends “Japanese and U.S. Law Schools at a Crossroads” to The Japan Times.

Regular readers should be familiar with my opinion on Japan’s failed, futile expansion of its legal education establishment: When criticized for over-emulating the U.S. law school system, it acquiesces when it should double-down on all the arguments their U.S. counterparts give.

But Gardner has his own opinions:

In the United States, the 200 American Bar Association’s accredited law schools are questioning whether too much emphasis is placed on the theoretical over the practical. Possession of a law degree does not necessarily mean graduates are ready to provide legal services, even though three-year tuition can exceed $150,000.

As a result, the number of applicants is down by more than 37 percent compared to 2010. The future is no brighter. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be some 21,880 new jobs for lawyers by 2020 but more than 45,000 graduates by then.

The practical training thing has always been a red herring. What’s important is jobs. Taking Gardner’s numbers as true, we find that there are too many law graduates relative to the number of lawyer job openings. Being well-trained for jobs that don’t exist doesn’t create jobs.

Meditate on that wisdom, Grasshopper.

Gardner, for his part, recommends law schools in both countries “raise their standards to admit even far fewer students” and toughen bar exams.

In the U.S., it would seem, law schools are efficient charities that don’t waste student loans and will self-terminate rather than accept students who have little hope of entering the profession or passing the bar. I had no idea.

Incidentally, does anyone know where this “practical training solution” myth came from? I keep seeing it without any question, as though admitting that there is an oversupply problem will anger Zeus enough to chuck a thunderbolt at you.

Gardner concludes:

The Ministry of Education and Science, which has been accused of being too lax, in accrediting law schools, could take a page from the ABA … in order to protect the integrity of a law degree. Too much is at stake for the Ministry to sit idly by.

Indeed. Thanks to the ABA’s tough standards that Japan should emulate, there are barely 200 law schools scraping by to keep their accreditation. The deans’ nights are sleepless before ABA site visits, and they tremble and stammer whenever the Imperial Accreditors interrogate them about the most trivial infractions.

In the real world, I can only think of three law schools that have lost their accreditation or were denied it in the last few decades. The ABA resisted Western State’s bid because it was a for-profit; it rescinded La Verne’s accreditation because of its graduates’ low bar pass rate, and then reapproved it without explanation; and it denied Lincoln Memorial’s bid in late 2011 only to change its mind last summer.

But the problem isn’t that the standards are too lax, it’s that we don’t need postbaccalaureate legal education. Same goes for Japan, even though it has a different type of legal system. Jobs should come first, and mandatory training should be kept to a minimum. It doesn’t make for an interesting editorial, I guess.