rs at robertsheridan.com
Fri Dec 26 11:34:43 PST 2008
Paul Krugman, Princeton economics professor, NYT Op-Ed columist and
Nobel Laureate in Economics, in "The Return of Depression Economics
and the Crisis of 2008 (W.W. Norton, 2009, 1999), writes:
"The only way to make sense of any complex system, be it global
weather or the global economy, is to work with models --simplified
representations of that system which you hope help you understand how
...whimsicality, a willingness to play with ideas, is not merely
entertaining but essential in times like these. Never trust an
aircraft designer who refuses to play with models, and never trust an
economic pundit who refuses to play with model economies." P. 18.
We play with models, too.
I tell students that Conlaw is the Operating System and that all the
other subjects they study, Contracts, Crimes, Torts, Civil Procedure,
etc. are the applications programs which must comply with the
principles of the OS, or else. It works for me.
Justice Scalia likens the Constitution to a restaurant menu.
His model bothers me because as analogies go, this being a form of
modeling, and he seems really to mean his, it breaks down fairly
readily. While some restaurant patrons may feel compelled to stick to
the menu or be disappointed, many restaurant owners welcome off-menu
orders in the interest of staying in business.
The Scalia model hides the fact that someone wrote the menu he's
sticking us with and they're all dead, while in the meantime, we've
got new owners, who, presumably, are empowered to add new rights to
the menu either by amendment or the time-honored practice (except
among a particular wing of the justices) of judicial interpretation.
Speaking of more or less persuasive models, Alan Greenspan's recent
autobiography recounts any number of real world examples of how the
economy works, or worked, in his view of the world.
Krugman lists any number of models, in the form of accounts of the
Mexican economy, the Argentine economy, the Chilean economy, etc.,
which in his different view form the basis of drawing the real lessons
from history, politics and economics. Krugman is very critical of
Greenspan, in case you hadn't picked up on this in the news, blaming
him in large part for the derivatives crisis by failing to see the
signs and failing to regulate.
The "ultimate objective" in studying these models, he says (P. 6), "is
to develop the theory of the case [a term that has a ring to it; I
wonder where the economics professors cribbed this] -- to figure out
how to think about this stuff."
My guess is that the cases we study in law school, and in law practice
apply, are themselves models, based on the premise, and promise, more
or less, that what has gone before will come again, given the same
circumstances, which aren't always the same, especially given the
passage of time and all this brings.
I just thought this worth mentioning.
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