DISABLING AMERICA: The ""Rights Industry ""in Our Time by Richard E. Morgan

DISABLING AMERICA: The ""Rights Industry ""in Our Time

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A polemic--along the lines of title, subtitle, introductory chapter (""The Rights Industry Run Amok""), cases-in-point (""Isolating the Churches,"" etc.), and textual rhetoric--that will delight those in agreement, but (like civil-libertarian decryings) make few if any converts. What's going on here, though, has occasional pertinence to intellectual politics. Regarding church-and-state, Morgan (Constitutional Law and Government, Bowdoin) first presents the legal argument against ""strict separation""; then, mixing the labeling-and-indicting that's the book's least attractive feature with some reasonable analysis, he fingers Beacon Press as the (Unitarian) source of a series of publications that ""provided a pseudo-scholarly background for the strict separationism"" of ""anti-Catholic Protestants,"" ""liberal secularists,"" and ""the public-school establishment."" Insofar as every movement is made up of groups, these were indeed the ones involved; but immediately after saying that this was no ""centrally-directed campaign,"" that the people concerned were ""intelligent"" and ""sincere,"" Morgan writes in scattershot conclusion that ""the basic components of the rights industry are all represented. . . the ACLU and NAACP, activist lawyers, committed academics, the National Council of Churches, and the American Jewish Congress."" Subsequent sections--on school desegregation and disciplinary constraints (""Destabilizing the Schools""), on criminal-procedure reforms (""Enfeebling Law Enforcement"") and law enforcement regulation (""Undermining Order Maintenance""), and on such governmental initiatives as affirmative action (""Preempting Private Outcomes"")--tend to focus more closely on legal cases and executive implementation, but not without background-probings (e.g., into legal scholar Yale Komisar's pre-Miranda writings) or a sprinkling of personal abuse (""However, Douglas, the aging Antiquarian, bolstered his Papachristo opinion with a celebration of loafing and loitering, bolstered by a quotation from the ubiquitous Anthony Amsterdam""). The internal conflict heats the book up--perhaps to its immediate, ideological advantage, but also at its expense.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1984
Publisher: Basic Books