Thursday, August 6, 2009

Keep Those Lawyers Alive

The name Dave Ramsey was not one I knew until last Sunday. As I was standing in the narthex of my church, however, someone invited me to a preview immediately after worship of a financial planning course that will be starting up again soon called Financial Peace University.

My wife, Diane, and I are doing alright financially. But in this economy, many people are struggling, and Financial Peace University is therefore a significant program at our church. So I thought I'd check out the preview.

Ramsey is a dynamic presenter who isn’t shy about telling his story of quickly making lots of money in real estate as a young man and just as quickly losing it. Today, he’s a bestselling author whose latest book, Total Money Makeover, is number three on the New York Times business hardcover list.

Why, then, did Ramsey take a gratuitous shot at lawyers in his presentation? Out of the blue, he trotted out the hoary old tale about someone suing McDonald’s for serving hot coffee that subsequently spilled.

Maybe Ramsey felt that a little lawyer bashing would help him build rapport with his audience. But surely there was another way to make his point that we should seek first to take responsibility for our own actions, rather than blame others. Of course we should each take responsibility. But that doesn't change lawyers' key role in holding others accountable for harm that can be prevented with reasonable care.

When Shakespeare has a character in Henry VI say, “the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” he was warning of the dangers of anarchy. Dave Ramsey might be inclined to take this line literally, but fortunately there isn’t a Shakespeare unit in the Financial Peace University curriculum.

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