April 20, 2009


Farnsworth, Ward, The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking About Law (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2007) (should be read by all first- and second-year law students).

Hastings, Max, Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-1945 (New York: Knopf, 2008).

Herr, Michael, Dispatches (New York: Everyman’s Library, 2009).

Smith, Tara, Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist (Cambridge, England, & New York, New York: Cambridge U. Press, 2006).

Wiggins, David, Ethics: Twelve Lectures on the Philosophy of Morality (Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 2006).

April 13, 2009


Ahamed, Liaquat, Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World (New York: The Penguin Press, 2009) ("No other issue would create more debate, disagreement, feuds, and confusion within the Federal Reserve System than what to do about the stock market. Wall Street had always loomed large in the American national psyche. Charles Dickens, visiting the United States in 1842, had been struck by the local taste for speculation and the desire 'to make a fortune out of nothing.' After the 1884 panic on the New York Stock Exchange, the London magazine, The Spectator commented, 'The English, however speculative, fear poverty. The Frenchman shoots himself to avoid it. The American with a million speculates to win ten, and if he takes losses takes a clerkship with equanimity. This freedom from sordidness is commendable, but it makes a nation of the most degenerate gamesters in the world.'" Id. at 270.).

Binmore, Ken, Rational Decisions (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) (This is a very nice read for those into game theory.).

Cohen, G.A., Rescuing Justice and Equality (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England: Harvard U. Press, 2008) (This is an interesting and worthwhile critique of John Rawls's 'Difference Principle'. "We perforce live by rules: we cannot engage in funamental normative thought whenever we face a decision. And it is fine to act without reflection on a rule that we know belongs to the set of rules in which we repose confidence. But if something makes us reflect, or even it we perchance reflect, here and now, then we rise above the rule: it is only as a rule that a rule should do its work as a rule." Id. at 270-271.).

Herring, George C., From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776 (The Oxford History of the United States) (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2008).

Kamm, F. M., Intricate Ethics: Rights, Responsibilities, and Permissible Harm (Oxford & New York: Oxford U. Press, 2007).

Macey, Jonathan R., Corporate Governance: Promises Kept, Promise Broken (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2008) (Though I am not completely convinced by the particulars of Macey’s arguments, his analysis is well worth the read. Nicely done is his discussion of how boards of directors, even those with supposedly independent outside directors, are often captured by management. We know the story: People tend to hire, or appoint to boards and committees, people who they think will think like they do and who can be counted on to do what (i.e., make the decisions) management wants them to do. The result is that boards and committees are rarely as independent in their thinking as we expect or want. And, they certainly do not function as much of a check or monitor to management’s decision. The term independent board,” or the term “independent committee,” may be an oxymoron. In short, Group-Think is the norm. We all want to be loved by the emperor or empress, and we don’t get their loved by informing them that they don’t have on any clothing or pointing out their warts. If you don’t need the love or insist on pointing out the warts, then one is not going to be on the board or on the committee. Thus, many corporate governance regulations, such as the Sarbones-Oxley Act, are a joke. As you know, that act was enacted in response to the Enron fiasco; yet the Enron board would have been, pretty much, in full compliance with it. Anyway, the book is worth suggesting to students. Macey manages to highlight some of the classic cases, e.g., Van Gorkom and Walt Disney, and do so in ways which may cause one to wonder why corporate American and The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit have survived as long as they have. Macey’s solution favors less governmental regulation and more regulation through market forces. Of course, the law review articles, where Macey first developed many of the thoughts refined here, were written before the present financial crisis. Some are chanting that we are in the mess we are in due to lack of regulation (resulting from a quarter century of deregulation—i.e., the Reagan legacy). Others are chanting that there has been too much regulation or too much of the wrong regulation. Macey will fall into the latter camp of chanters. “Regulation can impede, discourage, and even ban the operation of particular governance devices. Likewise, regulation also can facilitate, encourage, and even require corporate governance devices to operate—or to operate in a particular way. One of the principal contributions of this book is to point out that many of the most effective corporate governance devices, such as certain kinds of trading and activities in the takeover market, are either heavily regulated or banned outright. On the other hand, the mechanisms and institutions that I regard as the least effective, corporate boards of directors and credit rating agencies, for example, are facilitated, encouraged, and even directly or indirectly, required by regulation.” Id. at viiviii.).

Moore, Honor, ed., Poems from the Women’s Movement (American Poets Project 28) (New York: Library of America, 2009).

Norrell, Robert J., Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington (Cambridge & London: Belknap Press/Harvard U. Press, 2009).

April 1, 2009


Akerlof, George, Explorations in Pragmatic Economics: Selected Papers of George A. Akerlof (and co-authors) (Oxford & New York: Oxford U. Press, 2005).

Akerlof, George A., & Robert J. Shiller, Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) ("A repeat of the Great Depression is now a possibility because economists, the government, and the general public have in recent years grown complacent. They have forgotten the lessons of the 1930s, In those hard times we learned how the economy really works. We also learned the proper role of government in a robust capitalist economy. This book recovers those lessons, while also giving them a modern slant. To see how the world economy got into its current bind, it is necessary to understand those lessons. More important, we must understand them in order to know what is to be done." Id. at vii.).

Arendt, Hannah, The Origins of Totalitarianism with an introduction by Samantha Power (New York: Schocken Books, 1948, 2004) ("If it is the common error of our time to imagine that propaganda can achieve all things and that a man can be talked into anything provided the talking is sufficiently loud and cunning, in that period it was it was commonly believed that the "voice of the people was the voice of God," and that the task of a leader was...to follow that voice shrewdly. Both views go back to the same fundamental error of regarding the mob as identical with rather than as a caricature of the people." "The mob is primarily a group in which the residue of all classes are represented, This makes it so easy to mistake the mob for the people, which also comprises all strata of society. While the people in all great revolutions fight for true representation, the mob always will shout for the "strong man," the "great leader." For the mob hates society from which it is excluded, as well as Parliament where it is not represented. Plebiscites, therefore, with which modern mob leaders have obtained such excellent results, are an old concept of politicians who rely upon the mob". Id. at 138.).

Bracey, Christopher Alan, Saviors or Sellouts: The Promise and Perils of Black Conservatism, from Booker T. Washington to Condoleezza Rice (Boston: Beacon Press, 2008) (a disappointing read).

Broyard, Bliss, One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life–A Story of Race and Family Secrets (New York & Boston: Little, Brown, 2007).

Fallada, Hans, The Drinker translated from the German by Charlotte and A. L. Lloyd (Brooklyn, New York: Melville House, 1950, 1994, 2009).

Fallada, Hans, Every Man Dies Alone translated from the German by Michael Hofmann (Brooklyn, New York: Melville House, (1947, 1994, 2009).

Fallada, Hans, Little Man, What Now? translated from the German by Susan Bennett (Brooklyn, New York: Melville House, (1932, 1994, 2009).

Finkin, Mathew W., & Robert C. Post, For the Common Good: Principles of American Academic Freedom (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2009).

Fish, Stanley, Save the World on Your Own Time (Oxford & New York: Oxford U. Press, 2008).

Harrison, Kathryn, While They Slept: An Inquiry into the Murder of a Family (New York: Random House, 2008).

Herbert, Christopher, War of No Pity: The Indian Mutiny and Victorian Trauma (Princeton & Oxford; Princeton U. Press, 2008).

Ifill,Gwen, The Break-Through: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama (New York: Doubleday, 2009).

Kaplow, Louis, & Steven Shavell, Fairness Versus Welfare (Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: Harvard U. Press, 2002) ("In this book we ask what criteria ought to guide social decionmaking. Our thesis is that social decisions should be based exclusively on their effects on the welfare of individuals--and, accordingly, should not depend on notions of fairness, justice, or cognate concepts." Id. at xvii. Every law student should read this book, then determine for him/herself whether Kaplow and Shavell get it right, and why or why not.).

Kennedy, Paul, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict From 1500 to 2000 (New York: Random House, 1987) (This is still a relevant read. "The tests before the United States as it heads toward the twenty-first century are certainly daunting, perhaps especially in the economic sphere; but the nation's resources remain considerable, if they can be properly organized, and if there is a judicious recognition of both the limitations and the opportunities of American power. Id. at 534-535. Query: In the closing years of the first decade of the twenty-first century has America properly organized its considerable resources? Has America judicious recognized the limitations of American power? "For all its economic and perhaps military decline, it remains, in Pierre Hassner's words, 'the decisive actor in every type of balance and issue.' Because it has so much power for good or evil, because it is the linchpin of the western alliance system and the center of the existing global economy, what it does, or does not do, is so much more important than what any of the other Powers decides to do." Id. at 535. Query: Did America blow it?).

Levi, Edward H., Point of View: Talks on Education (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 1969).

MacAvoy, Paul W., The Unsustainable Costs of Partial Deregulation (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2007).

Page, Benjamin I., & Lawrence R. Jacobs, Class War?: What Americans Really Think about Economic Inequality (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2009) ("Our careful exploration of the data leads to a fascinating and perhaps counterintuitive picture of America that defies simply bifurcation into conservative and liberal camps. The evidence shows that most Americans are both philosophically conservative and operationally liberal. They believe in the American Dream, individual initiative, and free markets. In the abstract, they are uneasy with government. But Americans are also pragmatic. When their well-being (and that of people they care about) is threatened, or when their dreams are blocked by forces beyond their control, they turn to concrete government programs for help--programs that would greatly decrease economic inequality. Most Americans are conservative egalitarians." Id. at xi.).

Pisar, Samuel, Of Blood and Hope (Boston & Toronto: Little Brown, 1979, 1980).

Ricks, Thomas E., The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 (New York: The Penguin Press, 2009) ("Lt. Gregory Weber, an infantry platoon leader in the 2nd Infantry Division, recalled responding to a bombing and RPG ambush of a U.S. patrol in southern Baghdad that summer...." "Five soldiers were killed in the incident, but the image that haunted Weber was the first thing he saw, the dead soldier in the blasted turret, 'iPod still in his ear.' He still wonders, 'Did his leadership know he was distracted by music; not being able to hear the battlefield?'" Id. at 189.).

Sandweiss, Martha A., Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line (New York: The Penguin Press, 2009) (“The practice of passing generally involves adopting a particular identity to move toward greater legal and social privilege. It might mean taking on a different gender, or ethnic or national identity, but it most often involves the assumption of a different racial identity. And since, in the United States, social privilege has been associated with light-colored skin, passing usually entails concealing one’s African American heritage to assume a white identity. The entire practice hinges on a peculiar idea. Since one’s race could be determined by heritage as well as appearance, very light-colored skin did not necessarily make one a ‘white’ person. In the aftermath of emancipation, a host of laws sprang up throughout the Deep South clarifying just what defined a person as ‘black’ or ‘Negro,’ almost always for the purpose of restricting his rights. In 1896 the Supreme Court of the United States upheld these laws in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which affirmed that people with one ‘black’ great-grandparent could, for all intents and purposes, be considered black themselves, no matter what they looked like. This peculiarity American idea came to be known as ‘hypodescent,’ ‘One drop of black blood’ trumped seven drops of ‘white.’” Id. at 7.).

Showalter, Elaine, A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx (New York: Knopf, 2009).

Sundquist, Eric J., King’s Dream (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2009) (“For those on the political Left, King’s dream became associated less with colorblind “equal opportunity,” what was once the core value of democratic liberalism, than with race-based (and sometimes class-based) programs designed to achieve diversity, usually defined as proportionately equal outcomes, the new core vale of democratic liberalism.” Id. at 4. “By the same token, those on the Right have routinely cited the Dream speech–specifically, King’s hope that “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”–in support of an ideal of colorblind justice, and conservatives, no less than liberals, have presumed to know where King would stand on hot-button issues such as affirmative action, reparations for slavery, and school vouchers.” Id. at 5.).

Tough, Paul, Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2008).

Villa, Dana, Public Freedom (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2008) ("Popular ignorance, apathy, and distraction present huge impediments to recovering what is left of out diminishing democracy. It is sobering to realize that these are hardly the only, or indeed the largest, obstacles to that project." Id. at 22. "What can 'the public' and political institutions be in a world so dramatically constrained by the imperatives of the global marketplace and the ubiquity of bureaucratic hierarchy and bureaucratic process?" Id. at 25. "The deepest reserves of civic docility are found in the human, all-too-human tendency to submit to the gravitational pull of custom and convention--to what is, in effect, a decidedly social and 'participatory' form of authority." "It is misleading, then to say that docile subjects are 'manufactured' or produced. More often than not, they are self-willed and, to a degree, self-created. We are docile because we want, if not to be like everyone else, then to be admired for the things everyone else wants and admires. We desire the socialization of our desires, even or especially when those desires invest themselves in the project of self-development. In this way, 'self-fashioning' has become one of the most superficial of all herd animal behaviors. The ancient 'arts of the self'... return to be marketed as so many techniques for individual fulfillment. This is the predictable result of a modern form of life that is less 'disciplined' than it is, put simply, shallow. It is shallow not because it lacks self-concern or self-care, but because it lack the depth that only a viable public realm can give it." Id. at 300-301.).

Whitaker, Robert, On the Laps of Gods: The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice that Remade a Nation (New York: Crown Publishers, 2008) (race, racism, equal protection, substantive due process, habeas corpus, and the underside of American history).

Wilson, William Julius, More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (New York: Norton, 2009) (“Policy makers committed to seriously addressing the problems of race and poverty face two serious challenges: How to create legislation that is designed to confront structural and cultural forces that create and reinforce racial inequality; and how to get sufficient support from the American people to support such legislation.” Id. at 154.)