Policy Against Open Letters, Petitions, Group Amicus Briefs And The Like

I’m sorry. I’m not going to sign your open letter. I’m not going to sign your petition. I’m not going to join your group amicus brief.

I’ve signed these things in the past, and unfortunately, they keep showing up. Here’s the truth, I’m just not that interested in dealing with them anymore. So, this is my super professional statement of policy that I will point people to from now until the end of time. My reasons for not signing these things are wonderfully selfish (some might say privileged) and are outlined below.

First, these various documents take time for me to read (to be honest, it’s not that much time). Rather than read them, I can read something else or do almost anything other than review an unsolicited letter asking for my signature on a topic that I didn’t care that much about until someone contacted me and asked me to do something. I prefer spending my time doing other things or doing nothing at all. Plus, I’m better at doing other things or nothing at all. I like doing things that I’m good at, so I’ll skip your letter because I’m better at skipping it than reviewing it.

Second, these things almost always deal with some hot button issue — denouncing so and so for such and such, standing in solidarity with so and so, expressing outrage about some important thing. These hot button issues tend to piss off lots of people and I just don’t want to spend time being associated with pissed off people. If I’m angry enough about something, I’ll take action on my own. I don’t need someone else’s document to piss people off, I have a proven track record of doing it myself.

Third, these things are a trap for people who sign some documents and not others. If I sign onto one, I’m bound to be asked to sign more — no good deed goes unpunished after all. If I don’t sign, questions will be asked “Why didn’t he sign the letter opposing cats? He must be a dog lover!” “Why isn’t he standing in solidarity with Martians, he must be an Earther or a Belter!” If I have a policy I can point to that says “I don’t sign these things.” I can go on and live my life and be left alone. I like living my life and I like being left alone.

Finally, these documents are kinda boring and uninspiring. The letters are designed to get lots of people to sign on, which means they are usually written in a way to offend as few people as possible. Sure, sometimes they are written in a way to turn out the most passionate extremists on an issue, and while that’s entertaining, it’s sadly uninspiring. To really tickle my fancy requires a personal touch that balances interesting, entertaining, and inspiring. No group letter is going to get me there. I know what I like.

So, my dear letter writers, petition drafters, and amicus briefers, while I appreciate your interest and admire your enthusiasm, I think I’ll pass on adding my signature. But good luck with what you’ve written, I’m sure it will change the world.

Gregory S. McNeal

Along with being a successful entrepreneur, I am a tenured Professor of Law and Public Policy at Pepperdine University. I teach courses related to technology, law, and policy, and serve as a faculty member with the Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship.


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