[37.] Then, too, at the Harvard Law School itself, it is pretty clear and is now widely accepted that ghostwriting was involved in the Ogletree matter. As well, the famous Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz made a pregnant comment in an email to me in response to a criticism this blogger had made of his position vis a vis the Tribe matter. This writer criticized Dershowitz’s view that different standards apply in the legal profession, including legal academia, than elsewhere because of a "cultural difference." This supposed cultural difference was said to arise from the fact that judges use the language of briefs and of clerks’ memoranda when drafting opinions, and lawyers use the work of assistants. In responding to this writer’s criticism, Dershowitz said that his point "was in no way intended to provide any kind of a justification for plagiarism," but was made "in the related but different context" of "the problem of lawyers and law professors assigning drafting responsibility to research assistants -- a phenomenon that may well lead to accidental plagiarism." (emphasis added.) What we have here, then, is one of the major celebrity professors at Harvard (and a fellow whom this writer, at least, considers intellectually "top drawer") saying in effect that law professors do have assistants write their stuff and that this causes accidental plagiarism.
[46.] Now let us turn to the question of "so what?" So what if parts of Tribe’s book were ghostwritten for him? This is a subject that has been dealt with in other posts, but some relevant points will be repeated because of what one person, at least, thinks to be their importance. Having others ghostwrite portions of a book, without explicitly crediting them with some form of coauthorship, but instead putting your own name and your’s alone on the book as author, is a form of plain dishonesty and a form of intellectual theft. It is dishonest because it attempts (usually successfully, one gathers) to mislead people into thinking a work is yours and yours alone. It is intellectual theft, because you have stolen, misappropriated, call-it-what-you-will the other person’s work, inevitably doing so to benefit yourself. It is also psychologically unfair to the other person because she is being denied the credit for her work -- while you are instead stealing that credit for yourself.
[47.] Now this blogger knows, and it has been extensively discussed and criticized here, that this type of intellectual theft is rampant, is to a large extent the current way of the world. Judges put their own names to work written by their clerks, government officials put their names to work written by underlings, politicians and businessmen put their names to documents written by and claim authorship of speeches written by flacks, subordinates and speech writers. And now it seems, judging by outpourings of complaints and criticisms catalyzed by the Ogletree and Tribe matters, this dishonesty, this moral crookedness, has invaded the academic world as well, big time.
[48.] But dishonesty is dishonesty, even if everyone is doing it. It should stop, or be stopped, wherever possible. This is the more true because, as has extensively been discussed here previously, dishonesty in all its forms, from outright lies to spin to withholding information so people will not know the truth, is the fundamental problem leading to the other problems we face, including, by the way, the problem of lack of competent action. Absent a sea change in culture -- which, even if possible, cannot occur quickly -- it is unlikely that most of the current dishonesty can be stopped, including the dishonesty of using ghostwriters. Judges aren’t going to stop using clerks’ work, politicians ditto regarding the work of their subordinates and flacks, and so forth. But it can be stopped, or dramatically reduced, in academia, where the coin of the realm is (at least supposedly) not money, but intelligence, creativity, logic, depth, and analysis, and where a person’s name on her work has long been taken as a sign, in regard to this coin of the realm, that the work is indeed her work, her creativity, her analysis.