Saturday assorted links

1. Long profile of Richard Posner, more than just the usual.

2. Can robots be lawyers?  A serious, detailed look, goes well beyond the usual.

3. Can editors and journalists be competitors?  A serious, detailed look, with some not entirely pessimistic answers.  In the meantime it is like academia, if academia had to compete.

4. Ed Glaeser reviews Robert Gordon; my own review will be coming out in Foreign Affairs.

5. The culture that is Canada: “I analyzed N.H.L. data from 1980 to 2007 for 737 professional players born in the Canadian prairies. The players share a common environment in the ice rink, but those who were born in areas historically outside the reach of the Mounties were penalized more often — an average of about 1.4 minutes per game — than those who were not — an average of about 1 minute per game. That 0.4 minute difference actually amounts to about 100 additional penalty minutes over a player’s career.” Link here.


"FOR many Americans, the phrase “Canadian violence” is an oxymoron."

Lived in Buffalo, NY for four years. Crossed the border hundreds of times for business and pleasure and have met thousands of Canadians. Canadians (especially of the rural variety) love their hockey, their beer (and bloody Caesars) and fighting. The only Americans who think that Canadian violence is an oxymoron are those who have never spent a significant amount of time around them.

Growing up in Michigan, it always felt very weird crossing the bridge from Detroit to Windsor. Although geographically it is basically a continuation of the same city, Windsor seemed like Pleasantville. Not saying Canada doesn't have its drunks, wife beaters and ruffians, but I wouldn't say it is at all comparable to the US on the "how violent is the culture" scale.

California seems easy going. In the Northwest Territories I have to dial down what I suddenly realize is big city cynicism.

Absurd. Your basis is a walk across a bridge from Detroit to Windsor?

Basing a comparison of violence across cultures off of the city of DETROIT aka the shit hole of the United States...I think Jan must be trolling.

Windsor is 77% white whereas Detroit is 83% black. That wouldn't have anything to do with your perceptions, now would it Jan?

2.“forward-looking, valuing continuity with the past only so far as such continuity can help us cope with the problems of the present and of the future..

Ah, an anti-Scalia . Wish there were more in this tradition....

What Posner means is, "I'm much smarter than you, and therefore should have the right to override your political decisions with my own. I can't actually demonstrate my superior intelligence (e.g., by predicting political or economic events accurately), but I'll still entitled to substitute my predictions for yours, based on my LSAT scores."

Should there not be judges? Or should judges not be smart? Or is there some wholly apolitical way to judge?

First of all you missed his point. Deliberately I think. The issue is not whether a judge is smart, but whether is he arrogant enough to think that his puerile echos of the prevailing intellectual fashions should trump the intentions of the Founders, the legislators and the voters.

Second, how many questions can you beg in three short sentences? Yes, of course there is or should be an apolitical way to judge.

Any judge who asserts that judges should be able to overrule political decisions inherently seems (and to some degree is) arrogant. Yet this is exactly one of Americans judges' responsibilities. In his writings, Posner gives much weight to voters' preferences.

Please point me toward an apolitical means of judging.

Kimock January 17, 2016 at 1:22 am

I do not dispute that judges are supposed to interpret the law. That is not what Posner is talking about. There is a world of difference between determining what the intent of the Founder and legislators was and so applying it, and determining what you think American needs and imposing it. The second is unwarranted arrogance.

Traditionally everyone accepted that judges should leave politics to the voters. That doesn't mean they always did, but when they didn't it usually made for bad law.

Dick Posner is definitely smarter than you. There's a lot more evidence than his LSAT scores, which I am not sure are even available anywhere.

It is interesting you are so threatened by a comment on a blog. Why? You do not know how smart Y81 is. You cannot know. You are scared but of what?

Again the issue is not Posner's intelligence. It is his arrogance.

If a guy on some ESPN blog says that Aaron Rogers sucks, and he, the commentor, is a better athlete I feel pretty confident calling bullshit. It's technically possible, sure, but so unlikely as to not be worth worrying about.

And for the record, I'm scared of the monster under my bed.

What if this were Richard Posner's blog? Would you be confident that he is smarter than every single commenter? What if Posner commented on Eugene Volokh's blog? Who would be smarter then? Would the answer change if Volokh commented on Posner's blog? Or is it that Marginal Revolution is a vast wasteland, where everyone is dumber than Posner?

Your analogy is misplaced, because Aaron Rogers doesn't sit in a studio commenting on football players, but Richard Posner is himself part of the blogosphere.

A potted plant would be a better judge than Posner.

1. I was very interested to see that Posner is a literary formalist. Which reminds me... I wish English Departments would just repudiate the last 50-some years just go back to the "New Criticism" style. It turns out that English departments aren't very good at history, linguistics, philosophy, sociology, psychology, etc. Surprisingly, they're just good at parsing poems, figuring out the structure of novels, etc. Maybe they should focus on stuff like that.

The Mounties have traditionally been able to operate a system of mild quasi-martial law. Traditionally they have been their own judge and jury.

So are we supposed to assume that this means more effective punishment which translates into a higher deterrence for criminals?

I think I am going to go with that. Every time the Left and/or ACLU has limited law enforcement crime seems to rise. Civil Rights in that sense carry a price. After all, when someone says they would rather a hundred criminals go free than one is wrongfully convicted, what they are really saying is that they would rather have another hundred rapes or murders than one person is wrongfully convicted. I expect this is the sort of public hypocrisy that everyone says but that most people do not believe.

No, what we mean is that law enforcement is a greater threat to us than criminals are. In the unlikely event someone tries to murder me, I have the assistance of my own guns, dogs, neighbors, roommates, knowledge of terrain, and so on that put me at a huge advantage over any assailant.

Law enforcement however, has caused me considerable inconvenience, and to defeat them I would need to send hundreds of thousands to their destiny in Hell, which is intractable. Cops spend 99%+ of their time enforcing morality or interfering with traffic rather than dealing with real criminals. I agree many people will convict clearly innocent people, but they are usually pretty open about it.

Well that cannot be what you mean because it is not true. There is nowhere in the English speaking world where policemen are even remotely a threat to anyone but criminals. As everyone knows - and watch what everyone does based on that knowledge. They co-operate with the most stupid demands. They welcome policemen into their homes. They run towards them, never away from them.

I agree they spend too much of their time on traffic offenses.

To a policeman, everyone is a criminal, even other policemen. They know this better than anyone.

We're including Manitowoc County Wisconsin? (Yes I know they have an accent, but it's still English.)

You haven't spent much time as a black man in an American city , have you?

In Michigan, crime declines as as more and more police officers are taken off the streets. Awkward!

Did they at least turn the lights off after them?

1. A few years ago I met a Chicago attorney at an event, one who often appears before the Seventh Circuit. I asked him what Posner was like and he responded, "Everybody hates him. He's a terrible judge. His stream-of-conciousness opinions are useless and he is so convinced that he's smarter than everybody that he doesn't really listen to the arguments."

Take that for what you will, but this guy has a national reputation in his field and that's his opinion as a working lawyer who has to actually deal with Posner.

What non-lawyers don't understand about the work of lawyers is that what we do is solve problems and resolve conflicts. Judges who haven't been practicing lawyers never learn what lawyers actually do. A criticism of Senator Cruz is that, as an appellate lawyer, his only experience as a practicing lawyer, is that he never learned how to resolve conflicts, since negotiation and compromise aren't what appellate lawyers do. Judge Posner is a very interesting scholar, but he's not a lawyer. Never was.

This sounds like the set up to a joke - what do you call a lawyer who resolves conflicts? Poor.

I would imagine that what makes Posner a good and interesting scholar also makes for him being a bad judge. As Ted Craig says, Posner seems to have a healthy respect for his own intellect compared to everyone else. He has, after all, written over 60 books. The man clearly thinks the world is in need of his advice and guidance.

In most countries these are very distinct careers. In the Civil Law system, you don't get to be a judge just because all the other lawyers like you. You need to go to a special training institute when you are a student. You usually have to marry the right girl too. Practicing lawyers don't get to be scholars either. These are distinct career paths you choose at graduation.

I used to think that was absurd. Now I am not so sure.

2. Can robots be lawyers?

Did the study find that they couldn't because they empathized too much with their clients?

Back To The Future promised us hoverboards and an automated justice system. I had hopes for the robo-judges. Let's hope it happens.

Posner is a pox.

Hockey penalties are frequently a result of self policing on the ice. people who grow up in a community without easy recourse to authorities may be more comfortable settling perceived infractions against them by taking matters into their own hands rather then waiting for an officials whistle. Unwritten laws are a part of many sports. Many groups have social norms that police themselves

As a law school dropout I feel qualified to comment on the legal links TC cites:

(inside joke Rayward would understand) Judge Henry Friendly vs Judge Learned Hand - complimentary, or a case of where the one hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing?

Dana Remus et al paper on whether robots will replace lawyers: "(iii) inadequate consideration of whether algorithmic performance of a task conforms to the values, ideals and challenges of the legal profession" - translation: the lawyers will never allow it (true true).

On Posner: "The book’s message is that the academy and the judiciary talk past each other, in impenetrable jargon about useless theory and legalistic lingo that hides the real reasons for rulings. ...the Constitution and federal statutes rarely dictate precisely the outcome in a court case, so judges “fall back on their priors—the impulses, dispositions, attitudes, beliefs, and so on that they bring to a case,” before they look at the facts and at the law to be applied—and then use lingo to obscure their actual grounds for deciding." - didn't Posner get his hand slapped by the Sup. Ct. for trying to introduce, Lochner-style, economic reasoning ala Cass Sunstein into his legal decisions? I think so. Like Learned Hand, Posner is brilliant but outside the mainstream. Yes, I'm right (reading more of the article): "Divergent Paths, unexceptional by Posner standards, is the latest evidence that he remains America’s most contentious legal reformer—basically, a heretic." and "James Boyd White, an emeritus professor at the University of Michigan, wrote that Posner’s legal pragmatism means deciding cases “by a judicial balancing of costs and benefits."". Dang I'm good.

Hockey players from the Canadian prairies are often encouraged to use fighting as a path to the NHL-see the excellent biography of the late Derek Boogaard by Phillip Branch (Boogaard's father was a Mountie, incidentally). Or there may be a selection bias on the part of scouts who have traditionally searched for "toughness" in rural players. Daryl Sutter when he was general manager of the Calgary Flames drafted mostly players from the Western Hockey League (junior hockey) because of their "toughness" and scorned European players and players from the Quebec junior league which he regarded as "effete". These seem like more important factors than any regional " culture of violence".

4. Ed Glaeser will win a Nobel for the work he has done and is continuing to do on economics of agglomeration and cities. “Triumph of Cities” was a nice read but he’s been churning out ~4 big papers per year, all exceptional. And yes, this comment serves no purpose except to encourage folks to read more Glaeser, that is all.

@Mike B - hasn't the theme of cities and beneficial network effects been beaten to death by Krugman et al? I guess continuation of a well-known theme is Nobel prize worthy?

Re #5:
"When they break the sport’s rules, players receive penalties, which provide an objective measure of how violently they behave."
Fighting, instigating, boarding, and cross-checking are are one thing. But, are hooking, interfering, holding, or shooting the puck over the glass really a good measure of violence? It's seems weird to say Nick Kronwall is one of the least violent players in the NHL.

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