Economists Think of Most Lawyers Like Cats Think of Small Birds: Hoisted from the Archives

Hoisted from the Archives: Economists Think of Most Lawyers the Way Cats Think of Small Birds: June 13, 2002: I find that right-wingers Glenn Reynolds, Tom Maguire, and company have elevated me to the high and mighty rank of Democratic Party Hack. Alas! The real ideological partisans scorn me: I have too great a tendency to think about what I should say and then say what I think, rather than to simply jerk my knee and line up in my assigned place on some ideology- or patronage-based team.... Reynolds and company want very badly to say something critical about... Paul Krugman. Unfortunately for them, Krugman's recent column has nothing to take exception to.... So since they can't argue substance, they decide to try to argue procedure.

I can imagine what they thought: "Paul Krugman quotes Brad DeLong! And he doesn't say that DeLong was Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton administration!! That's 'material nondisclosure'!!! Krugman has done a bad thing!!!!" Never you mind that this isn't an issue on which there is any partisan dispute, and thus that 'disclosure' of the partisan allegiance of one's sources is not relevant. To an economist like me this style of—let's be polite, and call it "lawyerlike"—discourse is sad.... Try your best to make the listener forget what the big issue is (in this case, is Krugman right?)--and, instead, argue that there is something wrong with your adversary's procedure. This is, I think, the reason that we economists regard most lawyers like cats regard small birds: Flighty things. Unable to keep their minds focused on what matters. And our lawful prey.

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