Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

More on Richard Posner;
a journalist's perspective

It is no secret that I am a big fan of Richard Posner. Deep in my heart, I know he is unlikely ever to become a Supreme or to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, but I think both events should occur.

But not everyone agrees. Here are some excerpts from a recent article about Posner from the Columbia Journalism Review (thanks to John Chilton for the link).

Judges are not wallflowers, but Posner’s pugnacity and impatience, his willingness to confront bureaucracy with practicality, and his tendency to catch people off-guard are attributes for which he has become known. There are others: Posner is the most prolific federal judge in American history. In addition to more than 2,200 published opinions, he’s written thirty-eight books on a dizzying array of topics, from Monicagate to aging to intelligence reform, and more than 300 articles, op-ed pieces, reviews, and essays — including a recent blockbuster about the press. Along with Gary Becker, a Nobel economist in the monetarist Milton Friedman mold, he maintains a blog ( on which they tag-team on the finer points of everything from plagiarism to whether it’s cost-beneficial to fully rebuild New Orleans. He’s a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. He edits the American Law and Economics Review and is the founder of the Journal of Legal Studies.

In legal circles, he’s best known as an architect of, and primary cheerleader for, a market-deterministic school of legal thought known as “law and economics,” an extension of the Friedman philosophy that seeks to explain behavior and mediate disputes according to economic rules. Posner brought economic ideas into law in a new way, and he has had an enormous impact. “Posner is one of the most influential judges in the country,” says Floyd Abrams, the First Amendment lawyer, echoing the opinion of almost everyone I spoke to who has an opinion about the judge. “What he says is often not only read but taken serious account of by judges who sit far from the Seventh Circuit.”

That’s not particularly good news for journalists since Posner, in recent years, has brought his influence — and his pugnacity — to bear on the press. Posner seems to have little use for the notion that news is a product that deserves a higher legal status than, say, jet engines or soybeans. One influential opinion attached a heavy chain around the neck of the hope that the Supreme Court will grant journalists the right to remain silent about sources when prosecutors come calling. Another opinion threatens to strip First Amendment protections from student journalists. Yet when you study the record, a Judge Richard Posner emerges who has also, at times, been a staunch defender of newsgathering, including investigative reporting. So, journalistically speaking, he’s complicated.
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