March 21, 2011 2:23PM

Schools for Misrule Reviewed

Today was a banner day for my new book on legal academia, Schools for Misrule. It was reviewed at the Wall Street Journal by John McGinnis, professor of law at Northwestern, and at the Weekly Standard by George Leef, director of research at the North Carolina‐​based John Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. (One or both reviews may be behind subscriber screens.) Both reviews were highly favorable.


American law schools wield more social influence than any other part of the American university. In ‘Schools for Misrule,’ Walter Olson offers a fine dissection of these strangely powerful institutions. One of his themes is that law professors serve the interests of the legal profession above all else; they seek to enlarge the scope of the law, creating more work for lawyers even as the changes themselves impose more costs on society.


At most law schools—and emphatically at elite ones such as Obama’s Harvard—students are immersed in a bath of statist theories that rationalize ever‐​expanding government control over nearly every aspect of life. … They learn that the concepts of limited government and federalism are outmoded antiques that merely defend unjust privilege. … Schools for Misrule explains how most of the damaging ideas that lawyers, politicians, and judges are eager to fasten upon society originate in our law schools. …

The most recent explosion of legal activism involves making the United States subject to international law. Olson notes that at a New York University Law School symposium, speakers declared that international law requires nations to guarantee all people the right to health, education, “decent” work, and freedom from “severe social exclusion.” Columbia has created a campaign called “Bring Human Rights Home,” which is intended to generate pressure to make American policies consonant with the collectivist notions of “the international community.”

For readers who’d like to hear more about the ideas in the book, I’ll be giving lunchtime talks tomorrow (Tuesday) at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. and on Thursday at the Heartland Institute in Chicago. And on Thursday night I’m scheduled to appear on one of radio’s premier discussion shows, WGN’s Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg. The book as of this afternoon had reached #1,009 in the Amazon standings, #1 in the One‐​L category, #2 in Legal Education (following an LSAT prep book), and #7 in Law (with only one policy‐​oriented book, The New Jim Crow, ahead of it; the others are true‐​crime and student‐​prep books).