A law professor at the University of Chicago saw his post, We Are The Super Rich, on the corporate law blog “Truth on the Market” go viral last week. In it, Todd Henderson objected to proposed taxes on the “super rich,” saying that “super rich” in Washington rhetoric is anyone who makes over $250,000.
“That makes me super rich and subject to a big tax hike if the president has his way,” wrote Henderson. “I’m the president’s neighbor in Chicago, but we’ve never met. I wish we could, because I would introduce him to my family and our lifestyle, one he believes is capable of financing the vast expansion of government he is planning. A quick look at our family budget, which I will happily share with the White House, will show him that like many Americans, we are just getting by despite seeming to be rich. We aren’t.” ... Henderson went on to detail his family’s budget and expenditures ...
The highly personal post inspired lots of reactions around the Web. The Washington Independent, economist Brad DeLong, and Michael O’Hare argued he had far too many luxury goods on his list of necessities. The post got over 430 comments (cached) — many of them critical, angry, and vicious. ...
Henderson deleted the post yesterday, noting that he still stood by his arguments but that he feared for his family’s privacy:
The reason I took the very unusual step of deleting them is because my wife, who did not approve of my original post and disagrees vehemently with my opinion, did not consent to the publication of personal details about our family. In retrospect, it was a highly effective but incredibly stupid thing to do. The electronic lynch mob that has attacked and harassed me — you should see the emails sent to me personally! — has made my family feel threatened and insecure. We recently had a very early preemie, and this was a quite inopportune time to bring this on my family. For the record, I still think the planned tax increases will negatively impact my family and my country, but that is basically all I should have said. To my wife, my three children, and to anyone who was offended by my remarks, please accept my apologies. To those with pitchforks trying to attack me instead of my message, I feel sorry for you. You have caused untold damage to me personally. I may be wrong, even stupid, but I don’t think I deserved that.
This episode has had a profoundly negative impact on me. To be sure, I deserved and even welcomed criticism of my remarks. But the firestorm this created was completely unanticipated. Lies and misinformation, like that our family earns $450,000, spread uncontrollably. One of the perpetrators, Henry Blodget, has graciously agreed to correct this mistake. (Thank you, Henry.) I cannot begin to undo the problems this has caused. So I will stop and let the fire burn out. I don’t want or need pity from anyone. As bad as things are in this for me, many have it far worse. A wise and dear friend sent me a Yiddish saying: for a worm in horseradish, the whole world is horseradish. This worm is caught in a horseradish, but I can see beyond it.
The reason for this note is because I’ve decided to hang up my blogging hat. I was a fool, and I didn’t anticipate how this kind of thing could happen. As many of our readers and my students know, I’m opinionated and willing to push boundaries. This is what I think is the role of a professor, and blogging allowed me to do it in an informal and diverse manner. But I misunderstood the technology, and the consequences are devastating for me personally. I wish I had just stuck to blogging about corporate law and such, but I couldn’t help myself. Self restraint would have been the better course. Perhaps someday I will return and limit my commentary to my academic areas of interest. For now though, I have to say good bye. I’ve enjoyed the experience and the interactions I’ve had with readers and, of course, my co-bloggers. I am sad to leave, but my family has to come first, and my blogging has caused them incalculable damage.