Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend updates

Above the Law, a popular blog that bills itself "A Legal Tabloid - News, Gossip, and Colorful Commentary on Law Firms and the Legal Profession," may shortly be running an interview & feature on Getting It. Details to come.

I'm back from Leuven, and seem to have conquered the jet lag fairly painlessly (lots of sunshine back in NYC probably helped). Let's face it, people my age are simply in far better shape than our forebears were when I was a kid, before the rise of healthclubs & such. I will aim to post some impressions from my weekend there (both of Belgium and the session on transitions policy in which I participated), along with my PPT slides from the session, tomorrow (Tuesday).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

An afternoon in Leuven, Belgium

Whenever a trip I’ve agreed to months ago starts to loom as less than a week away, I start to wonder why I’m doing it. New York is pleasant at this time of year, I finally have plenty of time to write, and sixteen hours of plane travel across six time zones within a ninety hour span is not entirely idyllic, between the cattle car conditions on board and the jet lag on both ends. Nevertheless, I’m finding once again that one key reason I agree to do it is that I actually enjoy it to a surprising extent. (Other motivations include exposure for oneself and one’s ideas, and getting to meet or re-meet and learn from people outside one’s usual set.)

I pretty much have a system by now for these European red-eye flights that leave New York in the early evening and get you to your destination in the early to mid-AM when your body thinks it’s the middle of the night. Get an aisle seat. DON’T eat the airline dinner (which is not only vile, but served well after midnight according to the clock at your destination – absolutely no way to get your body to start adjusting). Instead, I have a regular breakfast at NYC time on the day-of, and then one more meal in NYC: a mid-afternoon linner (or you could call it dunch) that is reasonably easy on the system (such as a veggie hummus platter plus fresh or dried fruit). Coffee only at breakfast (first NYC and then the next morning on the plane), and alcohol preferably not at all though perhaps a glass won't throw you off too much. Melatonin plus a sleeping pill on the plane, in the hope of getting a couple of hours of sleep while also starting to reset the body clock, then when you get there hit the ground running. An enjoyable book (in this case, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall) verges on being indispensable on the plane, and music that you’re in the mood to enjoy helps enormously as well.

Upon arrival at the Brussels Airport, I took a convenient commuter train to Leuven (15 minute wait, 20 minute ride). Having Google-mapped the walk from the train station to my hotel, that went smoothly as well. Then after changing, shaving, showering, and stretching (for various balky body parts), out onto the street to spend the afternoon walking around. The key is to make it to dinner without napping, and then you can achieve a normal bedtime and (with melatonin, plus other aid as needed), you’re on your way to being able to function the next day.

Today in Leuven, just like in March when I went to Vienna, I had to get through the early bit of feeling exhausted while not having yet developed a feel for the layout, what is most worth seeing, etc. Leuven has a lovely cathedral and town hall, but so do lots of European towns. As in Vienna, the sunshine bailed me out, as did a local rather than touristic lunch (a “broodje” or sandwich, in a place where students from the university were lined up well out of the storefront). I’m still not entirely sure what was in my broodje, although bits of roast pork (?), egg, mayo, and tomato were certainly involved somehow. Then cappuccino came to my rescue when the early afternoon lull hit.

Leuven is not as big on museums as Vienna, but it was fun in both to see how the locals shop for food (admittedly a particular interest of mine). Plus one has to hunt down particular items, such as pastry in Vienna and chocolates here. And if you can cap it off by seeing an interesting and unusual tourist site rather than just the usual run of things, it can be surprisingly exhilarating to one’s sleep-starved mind.

Here in Leuven I had the half-baked idea that the out-of-the-way Museum van Humbeeck-Piron, which is dedicated to the work of the artists Pierre van Leuven Humbeeck (1891-1964) and Maria Piron (1888-1969), might be the ticket. Not that I am familiar with either of them. But after a long trek that finally took me to the right place and even a sign referring to them, it somehow turned into a dry hole - I think the place wasn't open. So my education about these 2 painters will have to wait.

Still an enjoyable enough ramble, with shopping stops (to look at food, not fashion) along the way, enlivened by Leuven's canals, statues, parks, and cafe-filled squares, but perhaps there was still something missing.

But I decided to slog on to the other main medieval church in Leuven, St. Michael's a few blocks past the bigger landmark St. Peter's that I had already seen several times. Not only is St. Michael's a lovely and much quirkier church, but so far as I could tell (as I cannot make much headway in trying to read Flemish) it is the temporary home of an art exhibit that plays dissonant modern anti-war themes (?) against the medieval background, making for a highly memorable if perplexing viewing experience.

Almost time for the opening reception at the conference I'm attending, which means I've made it and will probably be able to function well for several hours before I crash. Debate on transitions tomorrow, probably Brussels or Bruges for a day trip on Saturday, home to NYC on Sunday.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Best ever literary description of the New York Mets

From one of my favorite books, Saki's very Oscar Wildean The Unbearable Bassington:

"Comus," she said quietly and wearily, "you are an exact reversal of the legend of Pandora's Box. You have all the charm and advantages that a boy could want to help him on in the world, and behind it all there is the fatal damning gift of utter hopelessness."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rumble in the jungle?

Muhammad Ali famously dubbed his 1974 heavyweight championship fight with George Foreman the "Rumble in the Jungle."

I, by contrast, am participating later this week in the "Showdown in the Medieval University Town." This Wednesday night I take the red eye to Brussels, Belgium. Then a train the next morning will bring me to Leuven, home of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, which was founded in 1425 and remains one of Europe's premier research universities. This year (May 27-29) it is the site of the European Association of Tax Law Professors (EATLP) 2010 Annual Congress.

The main festivities will be on Friday, May 28, with a number of sessions addressing tax law retroactivity in one setting or another (e.g., ECJ Judgments, different kinds of statutes). The format for each session is to have a "thesis" introduced, supported by one speaker for a period of time, then opposed by another, followed by general debate.

My panel is the final one, "Retroactivity in Law and Economics," which I take to mean welfare economics with some reference to the so-called new view from work by Graetz, Kaplow, myself, and others in similar spirit. I have 25 minutes to speak in favor of the thesis, which after multi-party negotiations states as follows: "When disadvantageous changes in tax rules are introduced, taxpayers should not receive transition relief."

I will interpret this as meaning that taxpayers should not generally, as a matter of right, etc., be offered grandfathering, since obviously no general rule would be correct in all cases. More specifically, I view the thesis as rejecting the conventional counter-thesis, which holds: "When a tax preference is repealed, existing assets or asset-holders generally should get transition relief (such as grandfathering)."

Once I'm done, Charlotte Crane gets 15 minutes to oppose the thesis I'm defending, after which there's general debate in the room. If I am right about the audience's general stance on retroactivity issues, I will unfortunately (for me) be cast in the George Foreman role, not as Ali. I will try to smile gamely as shouts of "Crane, bomaye" sweep the arena.

At the end, there's an audience vote, pro and con, on the thesis. But there will also have been an audience vote at the beginning. Thus, my preferred strategy of being able to shrug off defeat on the ground that the audience was predisposed the other way (and that I would have won, say, at ALEA) will be unavailing if my vote totals get worse during the 90 minutes.

Basic outlines of our arguments, presumably to be distributed to the audience before the session, can be viewed here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Foreign aid

For some reason, Getting It, while down to a hideous # 600,000 in the highly volatile ratings of Amazon U.S., is around #45,000 in the U.K., and #135,000 in Canada. Can a foreign tour be far behind.

When will the U.S. fiscal crisis hit?

Bruce Bartlett thinks the "trigger ... will come from the credit rating agencies, such as Moody's and Standard and Poor's, which rate sovereign debt as well as that of private businesses and subnational governments.

"For at least five years these agencies have been warning that America's AAA bond rating isn't guaranteed. Any downgrade would send shock waves throughout the entire financial system because so many bonds are priced off of equivalent Treasuries, which are assumed to have zero risk of default. Thus a rise in Treasury rates, which would necessarily follow from a credit rating downgrade, would automatically raise other interest rates.

"Moreover, a credit rating downgrade would be a massive shock to the banking system because banks are now permitted to hold less capital against Treasury debt; higher capital requirements apply to debt that is considered more risky. While it is highly unlikely that Treasury debt would ever be so downgraded that banks would have to sell their holdings or raise additional capital, any downgrade would be viewed very, very negatively by banks, insurance companies, pension funds and other institutions that now hold large quantities of Treasury bonds.

"What might trigger such a downgrade? The rating agencies have already told us what it will be: a rise in the federal government's interest payments to 20% of revenue, not spending. That is the limit of what the agencies view as acceptable. As noted earlier, given the status of federal interest payments as superior to all other spending, this is the logical position for the rating agencies to take. Whether they are right about 20% of revenue being the cutoff between manageable and unmanageable interest payments is an empirical question that their experience presumably informs.

"So when might we reach the 20% threshold? According to the Congressional Budget Office's forecast based on the administration's budget, that will come in about 10 years .... However, I view this projection as extremely optimistic [because monetary tightening by the Fed will lead to higher interest rates] ...

"Therefore, I think it is very likely that the 20% threshold will be reached well in advance of the year 2020."

Needless to say, the credit rating agencies have recently been criticized for being too bullish with their AAA ratings when sought by paying clients, and may think they need to be mindful of that. Also, the federal government is not a paying client, and while it could exert formidable pressure on the rating agencies not to downgrade, this might draw grudging rather than enthusiastic cooperation, and be duly noticed in the credit markets.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Your Paper Makes SSRN Top Ten List"

When you post papers on the Social Science Research Network, you get a lot of e-mails headed "Your Paper Makes SSRN Top Ten List." I believe my most recent such notice came for the e-journal devoted to papers with 5-word titles and 2 co-authors by left-handed law professors who are between 5'10" and 6' tall.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Spring 2011 NYU Tax Policy Colloquium Speakers

Mihir Desai and I have finalized our speaker list for the NYU Tax Policy Colloquium next year (mid-January through late April 2011), though we generally haven't settled on specific dates for particular speakers yet. In alphabetical order, our presenters next year will be:

Joseph Bankman, Stanford Law School
Leonard Burman, Maxwell School of Syracuse University
Joshua Blank, NYU Law School
Cheryl Block, Washington University School of Law
Jennifer Blouin, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
Allison Christians, Wisconsin Law School
Michael Keen, International Monetary Fund
Leandra Lederman, Indiana University Law School
Yair Listoken, Yale Law School
David Miller, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
Adam Rosenzweig,Washington University School of Law
Kenneth Scheve, Yale University Department of Political Science
Kirk Stark, UCLA Law School
Eric Zolt, UCLA Law School

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We try harder

I'm still # 2 in Brian Leiter's rankings for most-cited tax faculty (behind Graetz; Kaplow not included because of his non-tax writings).

The Emperor Tiberius (or was it Caligula) reportedly said "Let them hate me, so long as they fear me." I don't want to be either hated or feared, so my version of the quote would be "Let them cite me, but couldn't they also download me?" (My SSRN download rating is much lower, perhaps reflecting topic choice plus the fact that books aren't downloaded from SSRN.)

The other #2s in particular subject areas are Jerry Mashaw, Alan Schwartz, Lucian Bebchuk, Dan Kahan or Bill Stuntz (tie), Elizabeth Scott, Curtis Bradley, Robert Merges, Eric Posner, Jeremy Waldron, Reva Siegel, Carol Rose, and Mark Tushnet.

Perhaps we should form the "#2 We Try Harder Club" and have annual dinners at NYC's second-rated Zagat restaurant.

Monday, May 17, 2010

New appointment

Congratulations to my colleague Lily Batchelder on being named Chief Tax Counsel of the Senate Finance Committee. She'll do a fantastic job there, although one has to hope the stars align properly so that she has a chance to make a difference. Her appointment seemingly raises the chances that something important and worthwhile will happen in tax on Capital Hill (the 2010 elections permitting), as otherwise why would they need her and why would she go.

Lily has been a great colleague and I look forward (with fingers crossed) to having her back at NYU in a couple of years. In the interim, there will be lots of admirers in the academic community (not just me but many others) whom she can call on if there's any way we can help.

PPT slides from my NTA talks concerning foreign tax credits and taxing financial institutions

I have now (after only a few false starts and with only moderate & sporadic levels of frustrated cursing) managed to upload to the NYU website, all by my little self, pdf versions of the ppt slides for the 2 talks I gave at the National Tax Association Annual Symposium last week, each relating to a draft paper that should be in print later this year.

The link for my "Rethinking Foreign Tax Creditability" slides is here.

And that for my "Taxing Financial Institutions" slides is here.

And so it begins

Fresh strawberries have now begun showing up regularly in the NYC-area farmers' markets. A huge change for the better, but within a couple of weeks it will get monotonous, and I'll begin chafing for the start of the true summer cornucopia - of which I never tire - involving peaches, apricots, blackberries, red/black/yellow raspberries, blueberries, plums of all sorts, etc.

Another Getting It reader

This non-U.S. reader enjoyed Getting It and thought it very funny but was also disturbed by its dark side:

"There is a feeling of Enron ... [We see the characters'] lack of morality, their dishonesty (e.g., with regard to billable hours), their lack of any interest in anything but their work (e.g., they only pretend to be interested in art or the opera) and they are interested in their work not because they are really interested in what they are doing, but only because of status reasons.

"As mentioned above, behind the humor that requires of course the characters to be exaggerated I found some really interesting truths in the book. Truths that could apply to certain parts of American society. To me, this is what makes the book really good, beyond the few hours of entertainment. Everyone is very lonely. Doberman has no one [he cares about or who cares about him]. Not only because Lyla is [often] angry with him. Even if she were not, he does not really love her. And it is unclear that she loves him (I would say she does not). The other two associates have their wives but seem to have no friends. The partner and everyone else hate the weekend, even though their workdays are quite horrible too. Most of the characters do not like their parents (and usually had miserable childhoods) and hate their parents-in-law. They do not have real friends. They meet people only for networking purposes. And raising kids is thought to be a very difficult task.

"It is unclear to me what makes them happy. What are they trying to maximize. Interestingly (and accurately I think) the lawyers do not really care about the money. They care about their status (share of the profits; say at the meeting; office; power; etc.). The women want to get married but it is unclear exactly why, because it is unclear that they want kids. As I wrote before [the characters] seem to have no friends. Work takes almost all of their time (they work on weekends), and it seems all they want is to be left alone to do something that is low brow.

"It is a really good book. I will strongly recommend it to my friends."

Here I feel compelled to step in and say on my own behalf: This was not autobiography, but a kind of social criticism. If I do end up writing a legal academic novel - and I'm starting to think about it as a possible long-term project but would want to stay light-years away from anything resembling (or at risk of being taken for) roman a clef - I am going to reverse my anti-hero, making him (in this case, as a classic incompletely reliable first-person narrator) an almost photo negative of Doberman: someone who is extremely nice and blessed with a few really good relationships but rather dim and one of nature's born losers.

UPDATE: Another reader, agreeing that it's disturbing, thinks legal ethics classes might conceivably use it (!). I responded that I am willing to show up, for my usual fee (zero), at any law school (or perhaps other?) class in the NYC Metro area at which Getting It is discussed.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ursula rises to new heights

She's owling again (as we call it) - leaping somehow to a wood beam way up high where she perches, squinting down at the world below her.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lost opportunity

I am at the moment taking the Acela from DC back to NYC, and I just saw someone exit at Philadelphia, clutching a copy of John Grisham's The Associate. I wanted to tell him: Getting It is on a similar subject but much more fun, interesting, and memorable. In a word (or make that 2), much better. Stayed quiet, though, as I figured he'd dismiss me as a loon.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

National Tax Association Spring Symposium

I have made it, via Acela, to that supreme paradise among garden spots, the Holiday Inn Capital in southwest Washington, DC. I'll be presenting my foreign tax credit paper tomorrow (Thursday) and my coauthored financial institutions paper Friday, then scurrying back to NYC. Hurrah for Acela adding free wireless service on their trains.

UPDATE: Both talks appeared to be well-received, though in each case I was trying to cover 30 minutes worth of material in 15 minutes. (Luckily, I talk fast.) There appeared to be some buzz around my Zelig-like appearance in the Elena Kagan photo that apparently received wide distribution. That plus a $2.25 Metrocard will definitely get me a one-way ride on the NYC subway. I will try to post the slides for the two talks early next week.

Now no more trips for a full 2 weeks, at which point I will head to Belgium to defend American academe's vibrant if new-fangled "law and economics" or "new view" style of analyzing legal transitions, before a possibly skeptical audience of European tax professors who may be keener on the old time religion.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Greenwald versus Kagan

Glen Greenwald calls it "Washington intellectual dishonesty defined" that, whereas in 1995 Elena Kagan "rightly excoriated the Supreme Court confirmation process as a 'vapid and hollow charade' because nominees refuse to answer any meaningful questions about what they think or believe," now she wants to play by the usual rules.

Personally, I am shocked, shocked by the switch.

This is no knock on Greenwald, whose voice I value in public debate - for example, concerning war crimes. By complaining about it, he's performing the role that he should, but this is how the game has always been played, and always will be.

I myself would hate to be seen (or to see myself) making that sort of all too convenient switch. But if I were playing in that league, I'd have to do it, too. This is one reason I don't want or choose to play there - I'd rather do things I enjoy and respect more. But others will play in that league, and indeed someone has to. YOU try giving honest and thoughtful answers in the environment of a Supreme Court confirmation fight, with idiots and lunatics waiting to Twitter some asinine misinterpretation. So, while in some sense I agree with Greenwald, I view this as an aesthetic preference concerning how I like to see myself, rather than as a realistic account of how we should expect people in the maelstrom to behave.

What fuels Greenwald's rage is his sense of how horrifically off-course business as usual in Washington has gotten us in recent years, with wars of choice, torture as national policy, etc. And he expects and demands more from people swimming in those poisonous seas than I do. But political convenience is a constant, not the cause of what went wrong, and I doubt that the solution (if there ever is one) will come from the sort of moral reform he evidently envisions. It will just happen historically, or else (more likely) not. Meanwhile, people will do what they must to get along. (Basic collective action problem.)

On the substantively more important issues raised by the nomination, such as Kagan's views of executive power, I am modestly hopeful, but admit I don't really know.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Update: Wa Po interview

The Washington Post interview I noted in an earlier post has now appeared. The passage where I appear goes as follows:

"Colleagues and students say she displayed intelligence and confidence in a high-wattage environment that had not always been friendly to women. 'Chicago's a small faculty. Everyone is expected to speak up and have a point of view. She was viewed as a straight-shooter who had common sense and judgment,' said Daniel Shaviro, a New York University law professor who knew Kagan at Chicago. 'She wasn't someone who just wanted to go into academics to play with ideas in a more abstruse way. She was interested in real-world institutions and issues.'"

(I characterized myself, by contrast, as someone who does like playing with ideas in a more abstruse way.)

Call me Zelig

From today's Washington Post photo gallery.

Photo 9, after a very annoying 15 second ad intro.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Challenge to the efficient market hypothesis?

OK, this isn't capital markets, but I am trying to figure out why Getting It costs about $10 more used (counting shipping) than new.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Washington Post interview regarding Elena Kagan

I just spoke to a Washington Post reporter who is writing a piece on Elena Kagan that will appear if (consistently with the prevailing rumors) she is nominated. There's a decent chance that I will be quoted in the article if it appears, as in interviews like this I find myself having a fairly candid and unguarded style.

What I had to say was quite favorable to her, simply because that reflects my view. I noted that some academics (such as me) are by nature abstract, at times abstruse, art-for-art's-sake ideas-loving types, while others are advocates for their ideological viewpoints, but Kagan was in neither of these groups. Rather, she is a person of great judgment and common sense who relishes above all "thinking like a lawyer." In an academic environment, the University of Chicago Law School, where they prefer Type 1 above and tolerate Type 2, she garnered enormous personal respect even though (a) her general type is less in fashion in the contemporary legal academic world, and (b) they're a tough crowd at Chicago - by no means do they respect everyone.

I then drew an invidious comparison in terms of garnering respect at the University of Chicago Law School, admittedly based on hearsay rather than my personal knowledge, and we'll see if it appears in the article. Let's just say for present purposes that Justice Scalia was not, it is my understanding, considered anywhere close to being as intelligent, interesting, or intellectually honest as the other leading conservative intellectuals at Chicago in that era. I've always been amused by the grand airs he puts on because I know how they looked at him (across the ideological spectrum) in Chicago back in the day.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Misguided fecundity? (Metaphorically speaking)

When you agree to give a bunch of talks, it turns out (unless you're more devil-may-care about this than I am) that you actually have to prepare for them. So the PowerPoint slides have been pouring out of me over the last few days like - oh, I don't know, like kittens from a pregnant female cat (though come to think of it, her labor is a great deal shorter).

Yesterday, I did slides for a debate on transition issues in Belgium later this month. Today's efforts were for a talk regarding the co-authored financial institutions tax paper that I am presenting at the NTA in Washington next week. Next, a possible update to the slides on my foreign tax credit paper that I am also presenting at the NTA next week. (The ones I have seem to work OK, but I've made things clearer in the article, and while the slides helped with that, perhaps they can now be improved as well.)

Even once I do that (or decide to stick with what I have), the well won't be quite drained yet - at least one more to go, though it might be an expanded version of something I already have, unless I adjust to the longer time slot just by talking more slowly.

(Metaphor watch: I must mean the well where the cat is giving birth; I hope she can carry her kittens out afterward.)

All to be posted here in due course.

Important findings from the Wall Street Journal

According to this Wall Street Journal article:

"Male Mets fans were 43% more likely than Yankees fans to drink beer. They also drink more in general … [but] have better support systems: they rated higher for marriage (51%) and pets (47%). By contrast, the typical male Yankees fan is unmarried (59%), owns no pets (58%), and is less likely to have children in his home. 'The Yankees are more like that because they really don't care, they just care about winning,' said Michael Dawkins, a Mets fan from Brooklyn. 'They don't have time to focus on the other things in life.'"

The study also finds: "Men who follow the Mets are slightly more likely to have stopped their education during or just after high school (30% versus 25%), but there's no great income disparity." Prima facie evidence that the Mets fans - earning about the same despite lesser education, drinking more, and caring less about winning - must have, on average, higher IQs?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

"Taxation and the Financial Sector" posted on SSRN

I have just posted on SSRN a new article draft that I co-authored with Douglas Shackelford and Joel Slemrod. It's entitled "Taxation and the Financial Sector." I will be presenting it at the National Tax Association Annual Meeting in Washington on Friday, May 14, and later this year a final version will appear in the National Tax Journal. Co-authoring, which I don't often do, was a good experience despite the incentive issues that may arise in all quarters (mine included) from such an enterprise.

Anyone who's interested can download it here.

The abstract is as follows:

In the aftermath of the recent financial crisis, a variety of taxes on financial institutions have been proposed or enacted. These taxes’ justifications range from punishing those deemed to have caused or unduly profited from the crisis, to addressing the budgetary costs of the crisis, to better aligning banks’ and bank executives’ incentives in light of the broader social costs and benefits of their actions. Although there is a long-standing literature on corrective, or Pigouvian, taxation, most of it has been applied to environmental externalities, and the externalities that arise from the actions of financial institution are structurally different. This paper reviews the justifications for special taxes on financial institutions, and addresses what kinds of taxes are most likely to achieve the various stated objectives, which often are in conflict. It then critically assesses the principal such taxes that have been proposed or enacted to date: financial transactions taxes, bonus taxes, and taxes on firms in the financial sector that apply based on size, bank liabilities, or excess profits.

Shortened blurb version of Nancy Matsumoto's Westview article on Getting It

"Hilarious …. tightly plotted …. One of the pleasures of Getting It is the narrator’s surgical dissection of Doberman’s motives and humorous descriptions of his inflated sense of self-worth …. brings to mind the biting satire of Evelyn Waugh, or a darker, meaner version of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."

Westview interview / review for Getting It

Westview, a free monthly newspaper that is distributed in the West Village in NYC, has now posted here its interview of me, with accompanying review of Getting It.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

First fruit of the end of classes

I am close to finishing a revised version of my article "The Case Against Foreign Tax Credits," and will sub it in for the old one on SSRN when it's ready. I think I've made what I am trying to say a bit clearer this time around. In particular, at times in presenting it I would get objections that struck me as orthogonal to my actual main points, and thus as evidently requiring revision. If the customer is always right, I suppose the same holds (in a limited sense) for readers.

This is the "long" version (now close to 50 pages) that should be coming out next year in the Journal of Legal Analysis. I also have written but not posted a "short" version that I plan for the National Tax Journal (issue containing May 2010 annual conference papers). The short version is not merely more concise, or I would use it for all purposes. Rather, it omits or shortens discussion of some topics that seem more likely to interest lawyers reading the JLA than economists and policymakers reading the NTJ.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Taken from the photo files at the University of Chicago Law School

This photo of Elena Kagan and me was taken in 1992 at a professors vs. students trivia contest. My, but both of us looked younger then. You can certainly see which one is the prospective Supreme Court appointee - the one with the Diet Coke rather than with what rather looks like a beer.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Nostalgia for things I was too young to follow at the time

I strongly prefer the volume of Rhino's 1960s Nuggets collections that highlights L.A. ("Where The Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968") to its S.F. counterpart ("Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970"). Now if Rhino would only do a companion volume for NYC ...

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Louis Auchincloss liked Getting It

Back in 2000, when I had just finished Getting It, in a version that was not quite yet final but I believe not far off, I sent it to Louis Auchincloss. I didn't know him personally or have any connections other than our both being in the legal world, but I found his mailing address on the Internet.

A couple of weeks later I got a letter back from Auchincloss, which I treated as private during his lifetime but see no harm to excerpting now. I gather from his reply that I had pitched my cover letter in terms of feedback and advice rather than seeking a blurb, so he offered various suggestions for revision, most of which I decided not to make although I generally could see his point.

Anyway, skipping the inside baseball suggestions for what he thought I might consider changing, it went like this:

"Dear Mr. Shaviro,

"I don't usually read what you call 'unsolicited manuscripts,' but yours came at a very good time, and I read it right away. I think your idea of a cad-hero in the rat race for partnership in a firm of cut-throats was a good one, and I enjoyed following the unscrupulous Doberman through all his wiles to [text containing spoilers about the ending deleted]

.... [Followed by his suggestions for what he'd do differently]

"I have enjoyed, however, your bleak picture of a scene I know too well. There are those who might think you go too far in showing Crossley as actually enjoying telling a clerk that he won't make partner, but I knew well a case on Wall Street precisely in point!

"Sincerely - Louis Auchincloss"