Evil Is Always With Us
By Ted Frank
The American Enterprise Institute
Evil is always with us. Andrew Kehoe dynamited the Bath School in Michigan, killing 38 children and six adults -- in 1927. So is courage: look at Virginia Tech Professor Liviu Librescu, who sacrificed himself to save the lives of many of his students when Cho Seung Hui barged into his classroom shooting.
Today, however, we have a legal system that gives entrepreneurial lawyers the incentive to find others than Cho to blame -- but the deepest pockets, rather than the most culpable. This can lead to absurd results: A New York jury held that terrorists who exploded a truck bomb in the World Trade Center in 1993 were only 32% responsible, but that the landlord was 68% responsible for the losses from that crime.
We can expect the same blame-shifting over this week's tragedy. With 20/20 hindsight, some will blame Virginia Tech for not anticipating precisely where a spree killer would be; others will seek to hold gun sellers or video-game makers liable. Millions of dollars will be spent on lawyers and perhaps even extortionate settlements.
But ironically, that same legal system will not consider its own contribution: a professor notified authorities about the clearly troubled Cho months ago, but "legal hurdles" prevented intervention.
The responsibility for the Virginia Tech massacre lies with Cho Seung Hui. But if lawyers are going to ask us to point fingers at peripheral parties, let us look at the effects that fear of liability has had on the ability of schools to do the right thing.
Ted Frank is a Resident Fellow and Director of the AEI Liability Project atthe American Enterprise institute
Posted by Michael Corones |
April 18, 2007; 1:30 PM ET
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