"A mind is a terrible thing to waste." That was the slogan the Ad Council penned in 1972 for a public service advertising campaign for the United Negro College Fund.
It was a good line then, and it's a good line today. That's why the UNCF continues to use it 37 years later.
What that campaign does not address, however, is the possibility that a good mind might be wasted even with a good education.
This provocative, sobering thought comes from one of the truly great minds of our time: that of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
"Chief Justice (Warren) Burger used to complain about the low quality of counsel," Scalia recalled in a recent interview. "I used to have just the opposite reaction. I used to be disappointed that so many of the best minds in the country were being devoted to this enterprise."
Scalia wondered why these brilliant minds were devoted to the law, instead of "doing something productive for this society. I mean lawyers, after all, don't produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom. That's important, but it doesn't put food on the table and there have to be other people who are doing that. And I worry that we are devoting too many of our very best minds to this enterprise."
Scalia reiterated that he had no complaints "about the quality of counsel, except maybe we're wasting some of our best minds."
We think Justice Scalia is on to something, and we wonder if bright minds in West Virginia might be wasting away.
Robert Peirce, for instance. What might the mind of this Pittsburgh attorney achieve were it not focused on the filing of asbestos lawsuits in our state? Or the mind of Scott Segal, excessively devoted to personal injury suits? Wouldn't they make great entrepreneurs?
Both men might have put their minds to better use. Instead, they've used them on personally profitable but socially non-productive litigation that at times seems destructive as well.
That is a terrible thing.