Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tushnet: "Mathematicians" and the Law
A fair number of the mathematicians say that in the course of their work they have made more than a few mistakes -- pursued lines of analysis that didn't pan out, thought they had proved something when they hadn't, and the like. (The thought here is clearly stronger than the one Andrew Wiles articulates in connection with his proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, which in its initial version had a mistake that forced Wiles to do quite a bit more work before he eliminated the error.) 
That led me to wonder whether academic law really has a category of "mistakes." One test that occurred to me was this: What's your estimate of the number of papers presented at workshops that are never published, just put back in the drawer, because the author[s] concluded that the paper was just wrong? My own estimate is "not many at all" (I don't exempt myself from this -- I do have a handful of papers in my "drawer" that I'm never going to publish because they didn't work out, but not many).
A new tag. Kurt Gödel meet David Addington
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Robert Reich
The other night I phoned a former Republican member of Congress with whom I’d worked in the 1990s on various pieces of legislation. I consider him a friend. I wanted his take on the Republican candidates because I felt I needed a reality check. Was I becoming excessively crotchety and partisan, or are these people really as weird as they seem? We got right into it:

Me: “So what do really you think of these candidates?”

Him: “You want my unvarnished opinion?”

Me: "Please. That’s why I called.”

Him: “They’re all nuts.”

Me: “Seriously. What do you really think of them?”

Him: “I just told you. They’re bonkers. Bizarre. They’re like a Star Wars bar room.”

Me: “How did it happen? How did your party manage to come up with this collection?”

Him: “We didn’t. They came up with themselves. There’s no party any more. It’s chaos. Anybody can just decide they want to be the Republican nominee, and make a run for it. Carson? Trump? They’re in the lead and they’re both out of their f*cking minds.”

Me: “That’s not reassuring.”

Him: “It’s a disaster. I’m telling you, if either of them is elected, this country is going to hell. The rest of them aren’t much better. I mean, Carly Fiorina? Really? Rubio? Please. Ted Cruz? Oh my god. And the people we thought had it sewn up, who are halfway sane – Bush and Christie – they’re sounding almost as batty as the rest.”

Me: “Who’s to blame for this mess?”

Him: “Roger Ailes, David and Charles Koch, Rupert Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh. I could go on. They’ve poisoned the American mind and destroyed the Republican Party.

Me: "Nice talking with you.”

Him: “Sleep well.”
repeats: Tony Judt
But this is not at all the conclusion Robert Reich would have us reach. In his version of our present dilemmas no one is to blame. “As citizens, we may feel that inequality on this scale cannot possibly be good for a democracy.... But the super-rich are not at fault.” “Have top executives become greedier?” No. “Have corporate boards grown less responsible?” No. “Are investors more docile?” “There’s no evidence to support any of these theories.” Corporations aren’t behaving very socially responsibly, as Reich documents. But that isn’t their job. We shouldn’t expect investors or consumers or companies to serve the common good. They are just seeking the best deal. Economics isn’t about ethics. As the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once observed, “If people want morality, let them get it from their archbishops.” 
In Reich’s account, there are no “malefactors of great wealth.” Indeed, he contemptuously dismisses any explanation that rests on human choice or will or class interest or even economic ideas. All such explanations, in his words, “collapse in the face of the facts.” The changes recorded in his book apparently just “happened,” in a subjectless illustration of the creative destruction inherent in the capitalist dynamic: Schumpeter-lite, as it were. If anything, Reich is a technological determinist. New “technologies have empowered consumers and investors to get better and better deals.” These deals have “sucked...social values... out of the system.... The story of what transpired has no heroes or villains.”
repeats: some evidence for Reich.
The link to Reich's blog via Leiter, whose "hermeneutics of suspicion" consistently puts him above it.

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