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Posner writes faster than publishers can publish

Posted by Christopher Shea  February 24, 2009 10:48 AM

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How fast does the prolific law professor and appellate judge Richard Posner write? Faster than the Harvard University Press can edit.

Posner, as is his wont, has jumped on the news and produced a book, this time about the financial crisis. It's called "A Failure of Capitalism," and Harvard expects it to be big, as academic books go. Long known as an skeptic about government interference in economic transactions, Posner "basically calls into question his own long-standing views on capitalism and the free market," according to the Harvard University Press publicist Mary Kate Maco. The catalog copy for the book says Posner argues that the response to the crisis from both government and the economic profession has been inadequate, and he calls for new regulation of financial markets.

Like the crisis, however, the book is a target in motion. Harvard got the rights to the book on the condition that it could turn it around by April; Posner finished the manuscript on January 30. Everything was on track, with bound galleys ready for reviewers last week. Posner, however, just kept on writing: He submitted an additional 10,000 words on events that followed the submission of his first draft, which editors hastily reviewed and added. Revised galleys will be available for reviewers next week.

Posner's still not finished, however: Starting one week after the book's publication, he will begin posting weekly updates to it on a new Web site, "The Posner Economic Crisis Blog" (address to be determined).* In a sense, then, the book will continue to evolve. This isn't the judge's first foray into the blog world: He already co-writes one with the Nobel-winning economist Gary Becker. But with the Harvard book-and-blog project, it's official: Posner's thinking is too fast moving, too generative, to be captured between hard covers.

*UPDATE: I originally wrote that Harvard "plans to create a Web site dedicated to the book." I've rewritten to clarify that this will be an ordinary blog, not one created or maintained by the press's staff. HUP and Posner have evidently not yet worked out who will pay for hosting fees or other blog-related expenses.

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10 comments so far...
  1. Ronald Coase was right: "[Judge Posner] writes faster than I can read." The Posner book for which I'm waiting most eagerly is "How to Squeeze 30 Hours out of Every Day."

    Long may he wave!

    Posted by Robert D. Rachlin, JD '60 March 2, 09 11:11 AM
  1. My concern is that the current economic crises is not a "failure of capitalism", but rather a refinement of what capitalism means. The failure of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mack are not the "failure" of the traditional notions of capitalism. Nor is the failure of the "techie's" to get their equations right a "failure of capitalism".
    Perhaps more interesting might be a discussion of what refinements might be made to the economic system. The adoption of bankruptcy (instead of "debtor prisons") was one "refinement., as was bank guarantees (FDIC) and Chapter 11. Systems that overcome the "positive-feedback" nature of the current economic system could be useful without defeating the historical benefits of capitalism.

    Posted by Brunn Roysden, Jr., J.D., MBA U.Chicago '78 March 2, 09 11:40 AM
  1. Posner, you're a disgrace to real capitalists everywhere. THE FED DID IT!

    Posted by Nick March 2, 09 01:36 PM
  1. Mr. Posner should understand that real capitalism has nothing to do with mixture of "intervent0onism, corporatism & socialism"..

    Posted by rex March 2, 09 03:02 PM
  1. That Posner. He's soooo courageous.

    Maybe he's doing this because he's sick of losing in debates with Walter Block and so he's pursuing something in economics which the likes of Block will never achieve: a Nobel. Like Krugman, he'll accomplish this by writing this book, thus kissing the establishment's collective ass to such an extent that he should be a shoe-in for the prize.

    I'm on to your plan, Posner!

    Posted by Rick Hanson March 2, 09 03:49 PM
  1. Are those dollar signs in your eyes, Mr. Posner?

    Posted by Xerxes March 2, 09 04:03 PM
  1. These comments are amusingly ignorant. Carry on.

    Posted by C12 March 3, 09 03:30 AM
  1. I can't believe how many people write their credentials when posting comments. No one thinks you're smarter because of it!

    Scissor me Xerxes!

    Posted by Max, JD '78, MBA '81, PhD '83, MD '84, PooP '3 March 3, 09 04:06 AM
  1. These comments certainly reflect well the intelligence and experience of UCHI graduates of all schools at the University.

    Posted by Ray March 5, 09 11:51 AM
  1. Ray, that's pretty far out! Care to elaborate how these (rather poor) comments reflect the "intelligence and experience" of University of Chicago graduates, or were you just planning on doing the usual 'hit and run' random comment on an internet blog?

    I'll hold my breath waiting for your cogent elaboration.

    Posted by RaysDay March 12, 09 02:49 AM
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