Monday, May 30, 2011

A note on golden retrievers

Pnin and I are hoping to be able to bring one home sometime late this summer. I'm looking at this litter and Blue and Gracie's puppies.

Friday, May 27, 2011

In defense of Sara Stadler

Above the Law's Elie Mystal goes after Emory Law professor Sara Stadler for making a controversial speech at commencement. Among her sins are telling students to "Get over it" regarding the lagging legal job market, that "I'm sure Emory has failed you in some way," and that "The only thing standing in the way of your happiness is a sense of entitlement." Mystal complains that these comments are insensitive to the pain of those who are anxious about finding work that will allow them to pay back their student loans.

Look, Mystal's right that lack of transparency from law schools in disclosing employment statistics is a real problem. I'd warmly welcome efforts to get them to be more honest. However, I doubt that Stadler's against such reforms.

The point is... for those who have already cast their lots in with law, you're better off trying to keep your chin up than down. You can't get back the sunk cost of tuition. One's focus should be, "How do I move forward?" Mystal didn't quote this part of the speech, but Stadler noted that, just as Emory has undoubtedly failed some students, friends or families or lovers often fail other people. There is a time to wallow in one's misery... but, ultimately, one has to move on.

I knew the type she's talking to (both at Emory and outside of it.) Statements along the lines of "The sky is blue" would be met with responses ike "Yeah, it would be bluer if I had a Biglaw job next year." I'd find myself trying to be sympathetic, but struggling not to say something like "Can we just focus on the sky being pretty and not your employment woes for five minutes?"

There are some similar defenses of the Stadler speech over at ATL a day later. I suppose I should add that, while I wasn't in Stadler's 1L section for Property and had no interest whatsoever in IP, I heard only good things about her from my classmates with different interests. I believe that she ran the clerkship program my 3L year and was particularly beloved by people who worked with her on that front.

Finally, for the non-Emory-grad bleeding heart libertarians who read this, you really should listen to the first half of the speech, which got no play on ATL or elsewhere. She takes a few leaves out of Richard Epstein's Simple Rules for a Complex World in discussing how complicated the law has become. Unlike Epstein, she declines to call it "complex" because that apparently dignifies law too much. It's rare that someone actually tries to out-libertarian Epstein, but I'm all in favor of it happening more often. All of this complicatedness is unfortunately terrible for clients, but good for lawyers. But the good lawyers are good at taking the complicatedness and boiling it down into something simple for clients. Given this, I'm not sure the message is actually "Be a giver, not a taker." It's perhaps more like "Be a creator. Help small businesses who have trouble affording lawyers figure out what they need. Don't be a rent-seeker."

Alternative interpretation of the giver/taker comment: it's perhaps better understood as "Be an internal, not an external."

On the evils of unlicensed condo association management

Matt Yglesias has a good post.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tim Pawlenty Opposes Ethanol Subsidies -- In Iowa

Via The Wall Street Journal, which leaves me temporarily feeling good about the Republican 2012 primary. For background on why ethanol subsidies are evil, see this and this.

Chesterton as a soft Burkean?

Megan McArdle has an interesting post up on drug development, in which she reproduces the below quote from G.K. Chesterton:

n the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.

I know little to nothing about pharmaceutical development, which is the subject of McArdle's post. But the long Chesterton quote did make me think of countless arguments that I've gotten into with Burkean conservatives on gay marriage. There, they usually seem to be arguing that even if I think I understand the general history of marriage as an institution -- how it arose, what purposes it was supposed to serve, and what purposes may no longer be served, I can't possibly. It is just too darn hard. And we are all supposed to sort of sit back and let organic historical forces take their courses, which I imagine functioning sort of like tidal waves or hurricanes. Except that that has never seemed to me to be quite right, because historical forces are nothing more than the aggregate of millions of individual decisions, which are volitional acts. And one does have control over one's volitional acts -- one tiny particle of the hurricane -- even if no one does not have control of the entire hurricane.

Chesterton's formulation seems superior, in my humble opinion. He says that it is okay sometimes for individuals to change or alter social institutions once it appears that they have thought things through. One should not rush to destroy long-standing institutions. But one need not stand back and passively wait for the gales.

Monday, May 23, 2011


1. As everyone knows by now, Mitch Daniels is not going to run for the Republican nomination for President. I'm disappointed. He seemed the most libertarian-ish of the guys who had a shot at winning the nomination. I was sorry to learn that he apparently supported an individual mandate back in 2003, which would have made it difficult for him to sound convincing on probably the most important limited government issue in the campaign.

So I'm left without a candidate. I do see a lot to like in Gary Johnson, for the reasons Pnin outlines there. But I don't think I can get even my "social conservative, but with significant libertarian sympathies" friends to sign onto his candidacy -- much less those elements of the GOP that are socially conservative but without any libertarian sympathies whatsoever. I suppose his protest run does have educational value, though, and I certainly support him running on that ground.

If there is anything that I should read that might convince me to support one of the other candidates, though, let me know.

2. Once again, John McWhorter has a good column on the War on Drugs.

3. It bothers me that FICO scores are calculated on a spectrum that is sort of like the SAT scale, but yet not. It should not be possible for a perfect score on anything to be an 850. It like shakes up my entire test-conditioned, meritocracy-obsessed worldview too violently.

4. I have read PUA/Game blogs on a few occasions when some big political blog links to them, but mostly avoid them because they are infuriating. That said, there is an interesting essay waiting to be written on whether Tyrion Lannister from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire trilogy is an alpha/is deploying Game tactics effectively. He seems really good at projecting the cocky, funny and confident parts of the Game ideology, despite all of the drawbacks associated with being a disabled dwarf. (I am not sure whether it's right to say that he doesn't fall into the typical PUA traps of being a vile misogynist. He's not exactly a feminist, but he lives in a quasi-medieval society where nobody really is. And while he's not exactly a nice guy by upper-middle-class lawyer dude standards, he's basically less vile than the rest of the Lannisters.) I do not actually know or care enough about Game and the PUA guys to write this myself, but someone who does should try. I would make a temporary exception to my practice of avoiding their blogs to read it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


So, long time no see, everyone. Briefly:

1. Pnin and I were away on our long-delayed honeymoon to Greece and Turkey. Aside from visiting various exotic and interesting place, I was... uh... attacked by a rather large and vicious German shepherd while we were walking around the ruins of Justinian's walls surrounding Istanbul. Unfortunately, because I am kind of slow-witted (as many of you know), I failed to ask the owner for his name and phone number. Then again, it might not have mattered; he didn't speak much English anyway, and I don't speak any Turkish. After doing some research, however, it appeared that it might be a good idea to get vaccinations for rabies. Thus an adventure ensued involving me speaking to Pnin in English, Pnin speaking in Russian to the hotel desk clerk, the desk clerk speaking in Turkish to some ambulance guys... and then a visit to a Turkish emergency room. Four rounds of rabies vaccinationsl later, I am fairly safely only the (metaphorical) rabid free markeeter whom my blog readers know and love (or know and hate, as the case may be.) I may have to rethink my short person's principled opposition to the maxidress trend, but on the plus side, I did find this. I will say that the GWU emergency room here in D.C. was slower than any of the services I dealt with as an American abroad in either Greece or Turkey.

2. Time to party like it's 1899! Yes, that's right. Pnin and I are holding the Third Annual Celebration of Friedrich Hayek's Birthday. Though we were abroad during his actual birthday, it would be wrong to let FH's 112th pass unheralded. So I have been absorbed in planning a suitably Austrian menu and then making crusts, etc. ahead of time.

3. I played Dungeons and Dragons for the first time at...uh... age 29 on Saturday. Pnin and one of the fellow law professors donate a game of Dungeons and Dragons with them to the annual public interest law auction at his school every year. This is apparently a highly popular item and cost more per person than any other item auctioned off, giving the lie to any suspicions that law students are not nerds. I made cocoa brownies and white bean and red pepper dip, which the party seemed to appreciate. Also, there was beer and of course Mountain Dew.

4. I've started reading George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. They are maddeningly addictive. Also very good plane reading because they are gigantic, extremely engrossing, and don't require the level of concentration/close reading that can't be maintained because of, say, the shrieking toddler over in 17A. There is part of me that wants to spend all non-work hours trying to race through the rest of the series, which would mean no writing on the Internet for an even longer time, but I will try to avoid totally giving into the temptation.