June 18, 2009


Adler, Matthew D. & Eric A. Posner, eds., Cost-Benefit Analysis: Legal, Economic, and Philosophical Perspectives (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2001) (This is a very worthwhile read, especially for those interested in administrative law and regulation. The conclusion of Gary S. Becker, "A Comment on the Conference on Cost-Benefit Analysis," sums it up well. "Cost-benefit analysis has a strong and clear place in a social planner model of political choices. But that model is of little value in explaining actual regulations, taxes, and subsidies. Yet, even when political decisions result from competition among interest groups, benefits and costs help explain which policies are adopted. Moreover, information about the true benefits and costs of different programs sometimes determines whether policies muster enough political support." Id. at 313, 316.).

Aron, Raymond, The Opium of the Intellectuals translated from the French by Terence Kilmartin (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957) ("Human actions are always intelligible. When they cease to be so, their authors are put outside the pale of humanity, they are regarded as lunatics, strangers to the species. But intelligibility does not come under a single heading and does not guarantee that the whole, each single element of which is in itself intelligible, makes sense to the observer." Id. at 136. "Communication between French and American intellectuals is all the more difficult because their situation is in many respects diametrically opposed." "The number of university graduates or professional writers is higher in America than in France, both absolutely and relatively, since it increases with economic progress. But the typical representative of the American intelligentsia is not scholar or writer but an expert--an economist or sociologist. The Americans put their trust in the technician, not in the cultivated man. . . . [T]he simple, global fact remains that the novelist or philosopher, who holds the centre of the stage in France does not impose the stamp of his personality or his vocabulary on the American intelligentsia." Id. at 228-229 (italic added).).

Bales, Kevin & Ron Soodalter, The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today (Berkeley & Los Angeles: U. of California Press, 2009) ("Certain things we know to be true. We know that slavery is a bad thing, perpetrated by bad people. We also know that slavery not only exists throughout the world today but flourishes. With approximately twenty-seven million people in bondage, it is thought to be the third most profitable criminal enterprise of our time, following only drugs and guns. In fact, more than twice as many people are in bondage in the world today than were taken from Africa during the entire 350 years of the Atlantic slave trade. And we know that slavery is alive and more than well in the United States, thriving in the dark, and practiced in many forms in places where you'd least expect it." Id. at 3. "This time there is no moral panic; most Americans are simply clueless. Id. at 11.).

Bodin, Jean, Colloquium of the Seven about Secrets of the Sublime translated with Introduction, Annotations, and Critical Readings by Marion Leathers Daniels Kuntz (Princeton & London: Princeton U. Press, 1975).

Coleman, James S., Foundations of Social Theory (Cambridge & London: Belknap Press/Harvard U. Press, 1990) (“‘Social theory,’ as taught in the universities, is largely a history of social thought. An unfriendly critic would say that current practice in social theory consists of chanting old mantras and invoking nineteenth-century theorists. Meanwhile, however, societies have been undergoing an organizational revolution. Just as the forests and fields of the physical environment are being replaced by streets and skyscrapers, the primordial institutions around which societies have developed are being replaced by purposively constructed social organization. Given those changes, we may wonder: Are we going where we want to go? Can we modify the direction? How do we choose a direction? But before we can ask these questions, we needs to know where we are going, and for that, we need a robust social theory. Such a theory requires a strong foundation, and that is what this book is intended to provide.” Id. at xv.).

Gomez, Laura E., Manifest Destinies the Making of the Mexican American Race (New York: NYU Press, 2007).

Greene, Julie, The Canal Builders: Making America’s Empire at the Panama Canal (New York: The Penguin Press, 2009) (See David Oshinsky’s review, “They Dug It” in NYT Book Review, March 27, 2009.).

Kolakowshi, Leszek, Main Currents of Marxism: The Founders, The Golden Age, The Breakdown translated from the Polish by P. S. Falla (New York & London: Norton, 2005) ("It may seem that after the demise of this multi-national machine, intellectually inept but efficient as an instrument of repression and exploitation, Marxism as a subject of study is buried for good, and that there is no point in digging it out from oblivion. But this is not a good argument. Our interest in the ideas of the past does not depend on their intellectual value, nor on their persuasive power in the present. We study various mythologies of long-dead religions, and the fact that there are no longer any believers does not make this study any less interesting. As a part of the history of religions, and of the history of culture, such study gives us insights into the spiritual activity of mankind., into our soul and its relations with other forms of human life. Inquiry into the history of ideas, whether religious, philosophical or political, is a search for our self-identity, for the meaning of our mental and physical efforts. The history of utopias is no less fascinating than the history of metallurgy or of chemical engineering." Id. at v-vi. "But we may safely predict that Marx himself will become more and more what he already is: a chapter from a textbook on the history of ideas, a figure that no longer evokes any emotions, simply the author of one of the 'great books' of the nineteenth century--one of those books that very few bother to read but whose titles are known to the educated public." Id. at 1214.).

Miller, James A., Remembering Scottsboro: The Legacy of an Infamous Trial (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) ("In many respects this is an archival project. My purpose has not been primarily to appeal to a sense of retrospective indignation about a particularly sordid episode in twentieth-century American racial history (although, to be sure, any sober account of the case invariably provokes such a reaction), but to explore the ways in which the shifting lexicon surrounding the Scottsboro case sheds light upon shifting and enduring American attitudes towards race and justice." Id. at 6.).

Peters, Gretchen, Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2009) ("Eight years after 9/11, the single greatest failure in the war on terror is not that Osama bin Laden continues to elude capture, or that the Taliban has staged a comeback, or even that al Qaeda is regrouping in Pakistan's tribal areas, it's the spectacular incapacity of western law enforcement to disrupt the flow of money that is keeping their networks afloat." Id. at 167.).

Schama, Simon, Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands 1780-1813 (New York: Knopf, 1977) ("The major liability of the Patriots was not weakness of numbers, Nor was it ... a half-heartedness in pursuit of their professed aspirations to a form of representative government. On the contrary, it was rather an unheeding attachment to the letter and the spirit of those ideas, which diluted the concentration of their strength and compromised the effectiveness of their organisation. For in their determination to reconcile democracy with their mission of national renewal, they were, at least until the eleventh hour, obliged to accept the historical structure of institutions. Politically radical, they remained institutionally conservative. Or, put another way, they aspired to be democratic federalists. The unfortunate paradox of all revolutions, certainly all pre-twentieth-century revolutions-as de Tocqueville pointed out--is the contradiction between liberty and power. Those which inherited a highly centralised and autocratic apparatus of state institutions stood the best chance of survival but also ran the greatest risk of extinguishing the liberties for which the revolution had been undertaken. Such of course was the case in France, and conceivably in Russia a century later." Id. at 102).).

Schelling, Thomas C., Choice and Consequence (Cambridge & London: Harvard U. Press, 1984).

Schelling, Thomas C., The Strategy of Conflict (Cambridge & London: Harvard U. Press, 1960, 1980).

Shachar, Ayelet, The Birthright Lottery: Citizenship and Global Inequality (Cambridge & London: Harvard U. Press, 2009) (This is an interesting, albeit most frustrating, read. Though sensitive the issue of global inequality, I am doubtful that birthright citizenship as a form of property-interest is the best means for analyzing and addressing that issue. Even if it ultimately is a productive means of analysis, etc., I don't think the theoretical underpinning are sufficiently developed. The project has, I think, started at the wrong end and at the wrong level. I would take it from the global to the domestic, focusing on (to use the United States as the example) not on nation citizenship but state, city, community residency. Why might a state, a city, or even a gated-community want to define residency in certain ways, and way which do manifest inequalities and the just the sort of birthright lottery Shachar is concerned just on a less grand scale. Conservatives will not be convinced by the arguments presented (but they are not the intended audience). I would not suggest that it all comes down to economics, but I think incorporation of more economic analysis would eliminate much of the unhelpful, touchy-feely notions contained in the book. Still, it is worth the read.).

Sunstein, Cass R., A Constitution of Many Minds: Why the Founding Document Doesn’t Mean What It Meant Before (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009).

Tett, Gillian, Fool’s Gold: How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at J.P. Morgan Was Corrupted by Wall Street Greed and Unleashed a Catastrophe (New York: Free Press, 2009) ("These days . . . I realize that the finance world's lack of interest in wider social matters cuts to the very heart of what has gone wrong. What social anthropology teaches its adherents is that nothing in society ever exists in a vacuum or in isolation. Holistic analysis that tries to link different parts of a social structure is crucial, be that in respect to wedding rituals or trading floors. Anthropology also instills a sense of skepticism about official rhetoric. In most societies, elites try to maintain their power not simply by garnering wealth, but also by dominating the mainstream ideologies, in terms of both what is said and what is not discussed. Social "silences" serve to maintain power structures, in ways that participants often barely understand themselves let alone plan." "In recent years, regulators, bankers, politicians, investors, and journalists have all failed to employ truly holistic thought--to our collective cost. Bankers have treated their mathematical models as if they were an infallible guide to the future, failing to see that these models were based on a ridiculously limited set of data" Id. at 252. Also see Paul M. Barret's review in The NYT Book Review, Sunday, June 14, 2008). A question I ask myself, and try to raise in my courses, is this: "What were the lawyers doing when this or that problem was developing?” Many more members of the legal profession need to own up to their lack of interests in wider social matters, their lack of holistic analysis, etc., and their inability to see beyond the immediate litigation, transaction and, yes, billable hours.).

Umrigar, Thrity, The Weight of Heaven: A Novel (New York: Harper, 2009) ("Out of the blue, he remembered something his grandma Benton had once said to him in one of her boozy moments. The old lady, gin on her breath, had bent toward the startled eleven-year-old boy and said, 'You know the most dangerous force on earth, darlin'? It ain't the atom bomb. It's a man who is truly free. That's who you gotta watch out for.' " Id. at 363.).