Friday, January 8, 2010

Pissed off and posting

I read something last night that filled me with so much rage that I dug out my economics text book from freshman year in college to look up a few things. That is a lot of rage. I am going to write about it now here, but maybe I'll do a little more reading and post something more informed and coherent later. What was it?

The New Yorker had a profile of Richard Posner, the judge and legal scholar who is one of the grand poobahs of the law and economics movement. This movement basically argues that laws should promote economic efficiency, and has produced a generation of conservative judges and legal thinkers. So what made me mad? Apparently Posner got around to reading a book recently which blew his mind in its clear and accurate description of how the economy accurately works. What is this brilliant cutting edge tome? JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES' GODDAMN GENERAL THEORY OF EMPLOYMENT INTEREST AND MONEY.

I can not sufficiently express my rage, but I also don't want to overstate the case against Posner. So why am I mad? Keynes' book basically lays out how actions of the government and public sector can stabilize the economy. This book was basically the bible of economics for half of the 20th century, and this branch of economics is called, not coincidentally, Keynsian economics. I am no economist, and I have read this book, as well as a couple of Milton Friedman's, and if I started an intellectual movement aimed at eliminating legal justifications for government regulation I WOULD HAVE READ A WHOLE LOT MORE BOOKS ABOUT ECONOMICS, AND CERTAINLY THE SINGLE ONE PROVIDING THE JUSTIFICATION FOR WHAT I WAS TRYING TO DESTROY.

What kind of bullshit academic, or human being, does not read the books essential to other side of the argument? I am trying to think of a suitable analogy, but metaphors fail. It isn't quite like playing on an American League baseball team and not knowing what a designated hitter is, it isn't quite like starting an anti Catholic splinter sect without having gone to Mass, it isn't quite like throwing a temper tantrum insisting you hate brussel sprouts when you've never tasted them (although this is closest).

To be fair though, I am not really an expert in Law and Economics or law or economics, and I am not sure exactly to what extent Posner's current claim that he is born again Keynsian directly contradicts his earlier legal theory. I am not sure about what Law and Economics has to say about public policy, and maybe Keynsianism and Law and Economics-ism are more compatible than I think.

I'll back to you with an answer, but I don't think so.
For now, Posner, you are on my shitlist.