The Bar in America: The Role of Elitism in a Liberal Democracy

Part I of this Note argues that liberal democracy, the free market, and science have contributed to the increasing atomization of American society. When each person and her views are glorified, universal standards of good become undermined, values become relative, and a sense of community becomes evanescent. Part II argues that individualism is incapable of accounting for the commonweal and therefore is inherently amoral because morality is concerned largely with determining when an individual’s will should be subservient to the will of others. Part III considers the nature of elitism and equality and attributes the demise of elitist institutions in America to the rise of individualism and egalitarianism. When liberal democracy, bolstered by the free market and science, overturned discriminatory institutions of the past, it rightfully eliminated the immoral excesses of institutional elitism. Unfortunately, liberal democracy did so without discretion, discrediting not only the immoral aspects of elitism but its desirable aspects as well. The ethic of service to others that is the most sacred quality of the legal profession, therefore, is threatened. Moreover, the destruction of elitist institutions has left a vacuum that has not been filled. The country, therefore, needs a force that promotes a sense of community and embodies an ethos of service to others.

Finally, Part IV argues that the Bar is a distinctive public calling which engenders special access to, and control over, the instruments of government and a unique ability to affect private rights. By virtue of this elite position, the Bar has a moral responsibility to serve the public. The Bar should fulfill its duties by countering the atomizing influences of liberal democracy, the free market, and science through the example of service to others.