Paul L. Caron
Dean





Sunday, November 27, 2022

Bono: 'Too Christian For The Mainstream, Too Mainstream For Christians?'

Christianity Today, Bono’s Punk-Rock

BonoGrief and God have been part of U2’s story from the start.

We got this invitation once,” Bono tells me. He speaks the next sentence with a tone of reverence: “The Reverend Billy Graham would love to meet the band and offer a blessing.”

We’re on a video call, and the frontman for U2 is sitting on the floor in front of a green couch, his computer on the coffee table in front of him. It’s golden hour in Dublin, and the just-setting sun makes the room glow. It’s almost theatrical. There’s a twinkle in his eye, too. He knows he has a good story.

“He’s the founder of Christianity Today,” he reminds me, grinning. “I didn’t know that then, but I still wanted the blessing. And I was trying to convince the band into coming with me, but for various reasons they couldn’t. It was difficult with the schedule, but I just found a way.”

This was in March 2002, just a few weeks after U2 played their legendary Super Bowl halftime show and days after their single “Walk On” won the Grammy for Record of the Year.

“His son Franklin picked me up at the airport,” Bono says, “and Franklin was doing very effective work with Samaritan’s Purse. But he wasn’t sure about his cargo.” He laughs. “On the way to meet his father, he kept asking me questions.”

Bono reenacts the conversation for me:

“You … you really love the Lord?”
“Yep.”
“Okay, you do. Are you saved?”
“Yep, and saving.”
He doesn’t laugh. No laugh.
“Have you given your life? Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?”
“Oh, I know Jesus Christ, and I try not to use him just as my personal Savior. But, you know, yes.”
“Why aren’t your songs, um, Christian songs?”
“They are!”
“Oh, well, some of them are.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, why don’t they … Why don’t we know they’re Christian songs?”
I said, “They’re all coming from a place, Franklin. Look around you. Look at the creation, look at the trees, look at the sky, look at these kinds of verdant hills. They don’t have a sign up that says, ‘Praise the Lord’ or ‘I belong to Jesus.’ They just give glory to Jesus.”

For four decades, Bono has found himself in conversations like this one, responding to Christians who aren’t quite sure what to make of him or U2. ...

Continue reading

November 27, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Colin Diver: Are The U.S. News Rankings Finally Going To Die?

New York Times Op-Ed:  Are the U.S. News College Rankings Finally Going to Die?, by Colin Diver (Former Dean, University of Pennsylvania Law School; Former President, Reed College; Author, Breaking Ranks: How the Rankings Industry Rules Higher Education and What to Do About It (Johns Hopkins University Press 2022) (more here):

Breaking Ranks 6Yale’s law school made the stunning announcement last week that it would no longer participate in the influential rankings published annually by U.S. News & World Report. Given the outsize importance attributed to the rankings by prospective applicants and alumni, Yale’s decision sent shock waves through the legal profession, and indeed all of higher education. Yet the law schools at Harvard, Berkeley, Georgetown, Columbia, Stanford and Michigan [and Duke and Northwestern] quickly followed suit. Will the universities of which they are a part join the boycott? Will other colleges and professional schools do the same? Could this be the beginning of the end for college rankings?

I sure hope so.

Since their emergence in 1983, the U.S. News college rankings have grown into a huge juggernaut. They have withstood decades of withering criticism — from journalistsuniversity presidents and the U.S. secretary of education — that the methodology ignores the distinctive character of individual schools and drives institutions to abandon priorities and principles in favor of whatever tweaks will bump them up a notch or two.

Continue reading

November 22, 2022 in Book Club, Law School Rankings, Legal Ed News, Legal Ed Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Tim Keller: Forgive — Why Should I And How Can I?

John Inazu (Washington University; Google Scholar), Tim Keller on Forgiveness:

ForgiveMy past two newsletters have examined the topic of forgiveness [Pandemic Forgiveness and The Incomprehensible Witness Of Forgiveness]. ... I thought the topic merited one more engagement, so I reached out to my friend, Tim Keller. ...

Tim’s latest book, out just this month, is Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I? [blogged here]. It explores the power of forgiveness and how we can practice it in our lives.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation.

John Inazu: What prompted you to write this book now?

Tim Keller: Two reasons. First, as a pastor I’ve spent decades teaching and counseling about this subject. It is one of the main resources that Christianity provides. But secondly, it seems that forgiveness is “fading” in our society. Some on the Left says that forgiveness is a way for oppressors to stay in power so we shouldn’t grant it to them. Others on the Right are now complaining that we cannot go into the public square with compassion—rather, we should be tougher, less forgiving. But social relationships cannot be sustained without forgiveness. Marriages, families, friendships—they all require forgiveness in one way or another. ...

JI: We know that forgiveness does not always require a Christian or even a theological framework. For example, Nelson Mandela did not base his forgiveness on religious commitments. But your new book argues that the Bible teaches “human forgiveness must be based on an experience of divine forgiveness” and “we must consciously base our forgiveness of others on God’s forgiveness of us.” How do you account for the Mandelas of the world? 

Continue reading

November 20, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

WSJ: Ten Books To Read On Faith In The Modern World

Wall Street Journal Bookshelf, 10 Books to Read on Faith in the Modern World:

A set of recent books—as seen through the eyes of Wall Street Journal reviewers—as fascinating, thought-provoking and various as the shades of contemporary belief.

I have blogged five of these ten books:

WSJ Books

After Disbelief: On Disenchantment, Disappointment, Eternity, and Joy
By Anthony T. Kronman | Yale

America’s Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794-1911
By Mark A. Noll | Oxford

God, Grades, and Graduation: Religion’s Surprising Impact on Academic Success
By Ilana M. Horwitz | Oxford

How God Works: The Science Behind the Benefits of Religion
By David DeSteno | Simon & Schuster

Continue reading

November 20, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, November 6, 2022

NY Times Op-Ed: Black, Christian And Transcending The Political Binary

New York Times Op-Ed:  Black, Christian and Transcending the Political Binary, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Compassion (2020)Justin Giboney is a lawyer and political strategist in Atlanta who grew up in the Black church. He says his theological foundation came from his grandfather, who was a bishop in a Black Pentecostal denomination. Giboney is also the president and a co-founder of the AND Campaign, a Christian civic organization meant to represent people of faith who do not fit neatly into either political party [and co-author of Compassion (&) Conviction: The AND Campaign's Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement (2020); see also The Faithful Voters Who Helped Put Biden Over The Top].

I’ve written before about how I’m intrigued by people and movements that defy our prescribed ideological categories. The AND Campaign, which is based in Atlanta and has 15 chapters across the United States, is one of those. Led almost entirely by young professionals, artists, pastors and community leaders of color, the group advocates voting rights and police reform, leads what it calls a “whole life project” dedicated to reducing abortion and supporting mothers, endorses a “livable wage” and champions other issues that break left and right, in turn.

As we approach the midterms, Giboney graciously agreed to speak with me about the state of our politics from the perspective of a person of faith who is also a person of color — what it’s like to embrace traditional Christian theology while also opposing the political stances of many white evangelicals, and what it’s like to be committed to social justice in ways that differ from those of many secular progressives. ...

Continue reading

November 6, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Dean Presents For-Profit Philanthropy Today At UC-Hastings

Steven Dean (Brooklyn) presents a chapter from For-Profit Philanthropy: Elite Power & the Threat of Limited Liability Companies, Donor-Advised Funds, & Strategic Corporate Giving (Jan. 2023) (with Dana Brakman Reiser (Brooklyn; Google Scholar)) at UC-Hastings today as part of its Tax Speaker Series hosted by Heather Field and Manoj Viswanathan:

For-profit-philanthropyIntroduction
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
— The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot

The size of the US philanthropic sector hints at the pivotal role it has long played in American society. Americans gave almost $485 billion to charities in 2021 alone, a record-breaking outpouring of generosity sparked by the global pandemic but not out of step with typical annual totals. The nonprofit sector employs well over 10 percent of US private workers, and grantmaking foundations hold more than $1 trillion in assets, with billions more held by operating charities.

Disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic bring the contributions of this sector—to research, public health, job training, and community support—into sharp relief. Philanthropic institutions have the power to change lives and shape policy, fueled by a combination of private funding, government subsidies, and public goodwill. It has been a hallmark of American society since Alexis de Tocqueville identified it as unique in the 1830s. Yet, for all its power, a crisis now looms over the future of the philanthropic sector itself.

Continue reading

October 25, 2022 in Book Club, Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship, Tax Workshops | Permalink

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Extreme Punishment: The Chilling True Story Of Dan Markel's Murder

Less than a month after the release of a book on Dan Markel's murder by his mother, Steve Epstein (a litigation partner at Poyner Spruill (Raleigh, North Carolina)) has published (last Sunday, on what would have been Dan's 50th birthday) Extreme Punishment: The Chilling True Story of Acclaimed Law Professor Dan Markel's Murder (Oct. 9, 2022):

Extreme PunishmentA devoted father. One of the most accomplished criminal law scholars in the country. Someone wanted him dead. But why?

On the morning of July 18, 2014, 41-year-old Florida State law professor Dan Markel dropped his boys off at preschool, hit the gym, and headed home to his quiet, tree-canopied neighborhood. Within seconds of pulling into his garage, two .38-caliber bullets fired from point-blank range were lodged in his brain.

His brutal slaying defied explanation. The case went stone cold for nearly two years before dogged pursuit by the Tallahassee Police and the FBI resulted in the arrest of two life-long criminals who had driven 10 hours from Miami with one singular purpose: to murder the esteemed professor. Were his ex-wife Wendi Adelson and her South Florida family the masterminds behind this horrific crime?

EXTREME PUNISHMENT is the riveting story of a divorce between two law professors that spiraled out of control, wealthy in-laws hell-bent on revenge, an unlikely love triangle, and the relentless quest to bring Dan’s killers—all of them—to justice.

“EXTREME PUNISHMENT is the book those of us who have been mesmerized by the search for justice in Dan Markel’s murder have been waiting for. Steve Epstein takes the reader through all the twists and turns of this remarkable case and provides richly textured insights into the lives of the people involved in, and affected by, this American tragedy.”
—Paul Caron, Dean of Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law and Founder of TaxProf Blog, a leading source of information about Dan Markel’s murder

Continue reading

October 12, 2022 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, October 9, 2022

WSJ Book Review: How Christianity Became More Conservative And Society More Secular

Wall Street Journal Book Review:  ‘Christianity’s American Fate’ Review: The Faith and Its Keepers, by D.G. Hart (Hillsdale College; Author, From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism (2011)) (reviewing David A. Hollinger (UC-Berkeley; Google Scholar), Christianity's American Fate: How Religion Became More Conservative and Society More Secular (2022):

CAFWhatever happened to fundamentalism? When Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell Sr. were alive, people knew that the former, a poster boy for evangelicalism, was winsome, and the latter, a fundamentalist TV preacher and head of the Moral Majority, was not. That was also a time when journalists classified Islamic terrorists as fundamentalists. Now “evangelical” carries most of the baggage fundamentalists packed. In elite academic and media circles, white evangelicalism is often associated with Christian nationalism, white supremacy, misogyny and distrust of science.

In “Christianity’s American Fate,” David A. Hollinger, a distinguished historian at the University of California, Berkeley (now retired), equates these terms. He begins by claiming, correctly, that fundamentalism was parent to evangelicalism. He leaves out that evangelicals tried to correct for fundamentalist cussedness with a kinder, gentler version of conservative Protestantism. Mr. Hollinger cannot accept that rebranding because 81% of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in 2016. For that reason, evangelicals threaten the intellectual and cultural norms of the mainstream. It’s debatable whether evangelicalism, interpreted carefully for 40 years by reputable scholars, deserves to be lumped in with bigoted Protestantism. In any case, Mr. Hollinger adds another to the pile of recent books that interpret support for Mr. Trump as evidence of evangelical toxicity.

Continue reading

October 9, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Stewart: Tax And Government In The 21st Century

Miranda Stewart (Melbourne), Tax and Government in the 21st Century (Miranda Stewart (Melbourne) ed., Cambridge University Press 2022):

Tax & GovernmentWith an accessible style and clear structure, Miranda Stewart explains how taxation finances government in the twenty-first century, exploring tax law in its historical, economic, and social context. Today, democratic tax states face an array of challenges, including the changing nature of work, the digitalisation and globalisation of the economy, and rebuilding after the fiscal crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stewart demonstrates the centrality of taxation for government budgets and explains key tax principles of equity, efficiency and administration. Presenting examples from a wide range of jurisdictions and international developments, Stewart shows how tax policy and law operate in our everyday lives, ranging from family and working life to taxing multinational enterprises in the global digital economy. Employing an interdisciplinary approach to the history and future of taxation law and policy, this is a valuable resource for legal scholars, practitioners and policy makers.

Reviews

Miranda Stewart's outstanding book is unique in providing a broad overview of taxation in the 21st century, with an emphasis on how tax shapes the relationship between a democratic state and its citizens. It should be read not just by tax specialists but by anyone who is interested in the crucial challenges globalization poses to maintaining sovereignty, democracy and the social insurance safety net.
Reuven S. Avi-Yonah — Irwin I. Cohn Professor of Law, University of Michigan

Continue reading

October 8, 2022 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, October 2, 2022

NY Times: F3 (Fitness, Fellowship, Faith) — A Cure For Middle-Age Male Loneliness?

New York Times, For Suburban Texas Men, a Workout Craze With a Side of Faith:

By day, Glenn Ayala is a 50-something account manager who spends much of his time behind a desk. But at Rick Rice Park in the early morning darkness, doing push-ups and jogging with a 20-pound rucksack on his back, he is known as K9, and he is with his people.

One Friday in August, Mr. Ayala joined about 20 other men in what they called the predawn “gloom” for the group’s regular workout. They grunted and hooted un-self-consciously, razzing one another and shouting encouragements, using nicknames generated by the group. (Mr. Ayala got his because he trains dogs in his spare time.)

The members also often gather to pray together and talk, building friendships that have extended into their daily lives: When Mr. Ayala separated from his wife, members of the group helped him move. When his relationship with his adult son floundered, they texted him Garth Brooks songs to buoy him.

This is F3 — that’s fitness, fellowship and faith — a fast-growing network of men’s workouts that combine exercise with spiritually inflected camaraderie. After its founding in 2011 as a free, outdoor group workout, its popularity exploded during the pandemic, expanding to some 3,400 groups across the country from 1,900, aiming to solve, as John Lambert, a.k.a. Slaughter, the network’s chief executive, put it, “a problem that society at large and men definitely didn’t even know they had: middle-age male loneliness.” ...

I first heard about F3 through a few acquaintances in Texas, men who spoke about their local groups with the zeal of evangelists. It reminded me of how urban women used to talk with me about SoulCycle, only these guys were suburban fathers.

Its no-frills formula inspires fervent devotion. “F3 has changed my life,” Mr. Ayala said. He first attended last year, when a friend repeatedly nudged him to try it — or in F3’s baroque jargon, put him in an “emotional headlock.” He was hooked immediately. About a year ago, he got an F3 tattoo on his chest. ...

In F3, there are no facilities, no formal gear and no membership fees. Popular in the South, where outdoor workouts are pleasant most months of the year, the groups are ostensibly nonsectarian, in the style of Alcoholics Anonymous, though many have a Christian emphasis. Some men describe the group as complementing and expanding on their experiences in church.

F3 is also the rare setting devoted to male bonding. It means you “have guys to do life with,” said Pastor Giraud, a.k.a. Baby Shark, who works out with Mr. Ayala. “To really care for others and be cared for, to acknowledge others and be acknowledged.” ,,,

Many F3 men want to be traditionally strong providers, but also be more active and attentive in their family lives than their own fathers were.

David French (The Dispatch), A Short Story of Men:

Continue reading

October 2, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Thursday, September 29, 2022

What Trump Gets Right About Harvard

Politico Magazine: What Trump Gets Right about Harvard, by Evan Mandery (CUNY; Google Scholar; Author, Poison Ivy: How Elite Colleges Divide Us (2022)):

Poison IvyClad in his trademark red sweater, Hall of Fame college basketball coach Bobby Knight introduced Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to an enthusiastic audience of supporters in late September 2016. “I’ll tell you one thing for damn sure,” Knight bellowed. “I know how to win and he’s going to be the best winner we’ve had in a long time.”

Trump emerged to the theme from Rocky, praised Knight’s incredible winning record, and then launched into a diatribe about elite colleges and universities. Two months earlier, Hillary Clinton had proposed to make public college free for middle-class families. Trump would have none of that. “Universities get massive tax breaks for massive endowments,” Trump said, to boos and catcalls. “These huge multi-billion-dollar endowments are tax free,” he explained. “But too many of these universities don’t use the money to help with tuition and student debt. Instead, these universities use the money to pay their administrators or put donors’ names on buildings or just store the money, keep it, and invest it.” The chorus of boos loudened. “In fact, many universities spend more on private equity managers than on tuition programs.”

Trump’s persistent attacks on elites were a major component of his electoral strategy and remained a key part of his message during his presidency and subsequent exile. Condemning elites — particularly in higher education — has long been a part of the GOP playbook, but it’s even more key today. Last November, Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance delivered a half-hour speech at the National Conservatism Conference titled, “The Universities are the Enemy.” Vance accused universities of pursuing “deceit and lies.” To applause, he said, “I think if any of us want to do the things that we want to do for our country and for the people who live in it, we have to honestly and aggressively attack the universities in this country.” Vance’s would-be Senate colleagues Josh Hawley — like Vance, a graduate of Yale Law School — and Ted Cruz — a graduate of Harvard — routinely attack elites and elite institutions.

To some extent, elite colleges are simply collateral damage in the culture war. Indeed, the thrust of Vance’s speech is about the need to break through the indoctrination of the liberal intelligentsia — via what he calls “red pilling,” a reference to The Matrix — where the “fundamental corruption” at the root of the system, as Vance put it, can’t be unseen once seen. “So much of what drives truth and knowledge, as we understand it in this country,” Vance said, “is fundamentally determined by, supported by and reinforced by the universities in this country.”

But that’s not the whole story. Another line of attack is about access. It’s about who gets to be part of the elite, and whether America has gotten a fair return on the massive investment that it has made in elite colleges. For, difficult as this might be for liberals to hear, almost everything Trump said to the crowd Bobby Knight had warmed up was true.

Continue reading

September 29, 2022 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Dickerson Reviews Brown's The Whiteness Of Wealth

A. Mechele Dickerson (Texas), Shining a Bright Light on the Color of Wealth, 120 Mich. L. Rev. 1085 (2022) (reviewing Dorothy A. Brown (Georgetown; Google Scholar), The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — And How We Can Fix It (2021)):

Michigan Law Review (2022)Professor Dorothy A. Brown boldly asserts in The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — And How We Can Fix It  that “whiteness has consistently and continually played a serious role in wealth building” (p. 20). Using stories from her life and the lives of other Black taxpayers, Brown methodically exposes how the same tax laws and policies that help whites build intergenerational wealth impoverish Blacks. Although readers who lack a business or legal background may not grasp the intricate technicalities of the Internal Revenue Code sections that Brown dissects, that does not matter. The clarity of Brown’s writing, her storytelling, and vivid examples involving her parents (Miss Dottie and James) and other ordinary Black taxpayers convey complex points—think tax policy preferences for horizontal equity or the lock-in effect—with ease.

This Review examines Brown’s powerful assertion that tax policies build and protect intergenerational white wealth and exacerbate the racial wealth gap by subsidizing activities and personal choices that disproportionately benefit white taxpayers. Those stunned by the enormity of this racial wealth gap will be horrified to learn that tax policies were designed to create white wealth.

Continue reading

September 28, 2022 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Ruth Markel Publishes Book On Her Son Dan's Murder, Sees Her Grandchildren For The First Time In Six Years

Ruth Markel, The Unveiling: A Mother's Reflection on Murder, Grief, and Trial Life (Sept. 20, 2022):

Markel Book (2022)Ruth Markel is the mother of the late Dan Markel, a noted law professor who was murdered in Tallahassee, Florida in 2014.

In The Unveiling, she describes her experiences since the day of Dan’s death from several distinct perspectives:

  • As a devastated mother with the unique human perspective of becoming a homicide survivor and victim.
  • As a woman whose attempts to achieve normalcy and live a healthy life are continually interrupted by painful reminders, a rollercoaster of hearings, frequently changing trial dates, verdicts, and appeals.
  • As an engaged citizen using what she has learned to help other victims of homicide and violent crimes recover from trauma and begin an optimistic outlook on life.
  • As an insider who shows how our collective network of family, friends, and experts—including a murder coach—have helped her family remain involved, motivated, and hopeful.
  • As a grandmother who had not been allowed to see her grandchildren in many years, she used advocacy to inspire the Florida State Legislature to pass a grandparent visitation bill.
  • And as an experienced author of nine books using the written word to effectively address the shift from grief to promise.

Toronto Sun, Mom's Quest to Solve University Professor's Murder:

Continue reading

September 27, 2022 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Low Anthropology: The Unlikely Key To A Gracious View Of Others (And Yourself)

David Zahl (Director, Mockingbird Ministries), Low Anthropology: The Unlikely Key to a Gracious View of Others (and Yourself) (2022):

Low AnthropologyMany of us spend our days feeling like we're the only one with problems, while everyone else has their act together. But the sooner we realize that everyone struggles like we do, the sooner we can show grace to ourselves and others.

In Low Anthropology, popular author and theologian David Zahl explores how our ideas about human nature influence our expectations in friendship, work, marriage, and politics. We all go through life with an "anthropology"—an idea about what humans are like, our potentials and our limitations. A high anthropology—thinking optimistically about human nature—can breed perfectionism, anxiety, burnout, loneliness, and resentment. Meanwhile, Zahl invites readers into a biblically rooted and surprisingly life-giving low anthropology, which fosters hope, deep connection with others, lasting love, vulnerability, compassion, and happiness.

Zahl offers a liberating view of human nature, sin, and grace, showing why the good news of Christianity is both urgent and appealing. By embracing a more accurate view of human beings, readers will discover a true and lasting hope.

Continue reading

September 18, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Celebrities For Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, And Profits Are Hurting The Church

Katelyn Beaty (Editorial Director, Brazos Press), Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits Are Hurting the Church (2022):

BeatyMany Christian leaders use their fame and influence to great effect. Whether that popularity resides at the local church level or represents national or international influence, many leaders have effectively said to their followers, "Follow me as I follow Christ." But fame that is cultivated for its own sake, without attendant spiritual maturity and accountability, has a shadow side that runs counter to the heart of the gospel. Celebrity--defined as social power without proximity--has led to abuses of power, the cultivation of persona, and a fixation on profits.

In light of the fall of famous Christian leaders in recent years, the time has come for the church to reexamine its relationship to celebrity. Award-winning journalist Katelyn Beaty explores the ways fame has reshaped the American church, explains how and why celebrity is woven into the fabric of the evangelical movement, and identifies many ways fame has gone awry in recent years. She shows us how evangelical culture is uniquely attracted to celebrity gurus over and against institutions, and she offers a renewed vision of ordinary faithfulness, helping us all keep fame in its proper place.

With insight and empathy, Katelyn Beaty diagnoses the broken patterns of leadership we see in the church. This book shows us the isolation and loneliness and abuse that can come from, and contribute to, these expectations of celebrity. But this book is no mere jeremiad. It points the way forward to renewed visions of power, accountability, and humility.
Russell Moore, chair of public theology, Christianity Today

Christianity Today Book Review, Christian Celebrity Isn’t a Problem to Fix, But an Eye to Gouge Out:

There is such a thing as making a problem too easy. And there are times where that error can yield devastating consequences.

This thought came to mind while reading Katelyn Beaty’s book Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits Are Hurting the Church. The book has much to admire. Beaty, a writer and former CT editor, is a keen observer of power dynamics within institutions and movements, for starters. She also is a good student of contemporary technological trends, with a well-developed understanding of how digital technology has transformed and exacerbated the problems of fame and celebrity both in the church and outside.

What’s more, I found her prudent counsel for how we might curb the worst excesses of celebrity to be wise and admirable. Her conversation partners in the final chapter are, if predictable, also wise: Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, Andy Crouch, Dallas Willard.

Pulling punches
Yet for all its merits, I found the book to be ultimately too moderate in its critique. While Celebrities for Jesus is a wise book, it is also, for a certain type of evangelical, a relatively pleasant book. ... As Beaty profiles the many cases of egregious moral failure and abuse of power by Christian celebrities ranging from Mark Driscoll to Ravi Zacharias to Bill Hybels, she consistently tries to keep the fact of evangelical celebrity separate from the abuse of evangelical celebrity, holding out hope that we can have one without the other. Effectively, she holds out hope that you can have the huge online platform, get the massive six-figure book deal, enjoy the luxurious mansion, and be okay as long as you recognize the dangers of celebrity and don’t abuse your power.

In one passage she writes,

Christian leaders should always ask whether their spending signals modesty or opulence—especially to those they are ministering to. The point here is not that private jets are always evil (although, on the whole, I’d argue their problems far outweigh their temporary conveniences). Or that nice meals, second homes, and expensive clothes are always and everywhere wrong. The point here is that all these things in our time signify lavish displays of wealth. To keep the worldly lure of money in check, Christian leaders should cultivate financial modesty—and ask others to hold them accountable to it.

There is a tension between discussing problems inherent to celebrity and problems dealing with the abuse of celebrity. Teasing the two apart is seldom easy. Yet it seemed like much of the book’s rhetorical firepower was fixed on the latter rather than the former. Thus there are points where Beaty’s analysis suggests that we might avoid the pitfalls of celebrity if only the celebrities themselves would cut back on ostentation and excess, instead adopting healthier habits (and even pursuing a kind of obscurity).

But this doesn’t altogether work, as the passage above illustrates: If you have a private jet, you are being opulent. There is not a modest way of buying a private jet or, to use another example Beaty offers in that chapter, a $2,000 purse. By refusing to just say no to these displays, Beaty shrinks back from saying the hard thing and gives readers an out from the problem she’s highlighting. By pulling her punches in this way, Beaty tames the force of her critique.

Yet the fuller, more assertive version of Beaty’s critique is precisely what American evangelicals need to hear today. ...

When I survey the wreckage of evangelical celebrity, I don’t see any reason for moderation. The seeker-sensitive movement and its natural descendant, online church, is the evangelical version of the eye that we must gouge out and cast into the fire before it condemns our entire movement to those flames. Yet Beaty seems hesitant to go there. Even as she ends the book she writes, “To be sure, screens are not inherently evil, nor are large churches, social media platforms, or charismatic personalities.” ...

It’s possible I am wrong, of course, and that calling on Christian leaders to distance themselves from social media, break up their megachurches into smaller neighborhood parishes, and fully repudiate the lavish lifestyles of Hillsong preachers is asking too much. But when I survey the American church today, I see no reason to think celebrity of any sort should be preserved. And I see many reasons to think it’s leading us to hell.

Editor's Note:  If you would like to receive a weekly email each Sunday with links to the faith posts on TaxProf Blog, email me here.

September 18, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, September 11, 2022

WSJ: Pastor Timothy Keller Speaks To The Head And The Heart

Wall Street Journal Weekend Confidential, Pastor Timothy Keller Speaks to the Head and the Heart:

KellerDr. Keller, 71, has earned a wide following for his erudite and engaging teaching of the Gospel. Since he founded Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan in 1989, his appeal to young, educated professionals has helped it grow from a few dozen members to more than 5,000 weekly attendees across three locations. His sermons, which address believers and nonbelievers alike, are available on a podcast that over 2.5 million people download each month. He has also written more than two dozen books on subjects such as God, death, marriage and meaning; his new book Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I? will be published in November. ...

Though he is theologically conservative, Dr. Keller is wary of calling himself “evangelical,” largely owing to the term’s political implications. “It creates images in people’s minds that don’t fit me,” he explains. Although the Bible teaches that we should welcome immigrants and help the poor, he notes that it doesn’t specify whether government should be big or small, or whether taxes should be high or low. Thus Christians shouldn’t feel they are obligated to vote for either Democrats or Republicans. He adds that politics are creating serious fissures within the church. “People are walking away from each other,” he says. “It’s quite painful.”

An introverted “egghead” when he arrived at Bucknell, Dr. Keller recalls that he felt pride in usually being the smartest kid in the room. “I didn’t realize that was killing me,” he says now. He explains that he learned from reading St. Augustine that his loves were “not ordered properly.” Seeking fulfillment from his intelligence made him susceptible to despair if he got a bad grade. By learning to love God first and making this love central, he says, he became more able to manage life’s disappointments.

“Unless you love God the most, you will turn your children or spouse or job into a kind of god that you will expect to completely fulfill you,” he explains. This is a recipe for dissatisfaction, he adds, and often alienates those we love by burdening them with unreasonable expectations. Dr. Keller often quotes C.S. Lewis: “Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in.’ Aim at earth and you get neither.” ...

Dr. Keller preaches a conservative Christianity to his cosmopolitan flock, in which marriage is between a man and a woman and abortion is murder. ...

Continue reading

September 11, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Saturday, September 3, 2022

The Myth Of American Income Inequality

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  Income Equality, Not Inequality, Is the Problem, by Phil Gramm & John Early (Co-Authors, The Myth of American Inequality: How Government Biases Policy Debate (2022)):

MythContrary to conventional wisdom, the most dramatic and consequential change in the distribution of income in America in the past half-century isn’t rising income inequality but the extraordinary growth in income equality among the bottom 60% of household earners.

Real government transfer payments to the bottom 20% of household earners surged by 269% between 1967 and 2017, while middle-income households saw their real earnings after taxes rise by only 154% during the same period. That has largely equalized the income of the bottom 60% of Americans. This government-created equality has caused the labor-force participation rate to collapse among working-age people in low-income households and unleashed a populist realignment that is unraveling the coalition that has dominated American politics since the 1930s.

On these pages, we have debunked the myth that income inequality is extreme and growing on a secular basis by showing that the Census Bureau measure of income fails to include two-thirds of all federal, state and local transfer payments as income to the recipients and fails to treat taxes paid as income lost to the taxpayer. The Census Bureau measure overstates current income inequality between the highest and lowest 20% of earners by more than 300% and claims that income inequality has risen by 21% since 1967, when in fact it has fallen by 3%. ...

Continue reading

September 3, 2022 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax News, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, August 28, 2022

God, The Bible, And Hamilton

Longtime readers know of my obsession with interest in Hamilton, especially the faith aspects of the play (see C.S. Lewis & Lin-Manuel Miranda: How I Found My Faith In Mere Christianity And Deepened It In Hamilton and the links below). I just came across these great books and article:

Kevin Cloud, God and Hamilton: Spiritual Themes from the Life of Alexander Hamilton and the Broadway Musical He Inspired:

God and HamiltonDiscover Spiritual Truths from the Smash Broadway Hit Hamilton that Will Transform Your Life

Hamilton―the hip-hop musical about a forgotten Founding Father―is the most compelling musical of our time. But if you watch it without understanding the spiritual themes of Alexander Hamilton’s life, you only get half the story. Discover how Hamilton is a modern-day parable that will:

  • Lead you into a deeper experience of God’s grace
  • Help you battle guilt and shame
  • Challenge you to forgive
  • Inspire your faith
  • Engage you in the struggle for human equality

God and Hamilton impressively weaves together insights from the musical itself, the lives of Alexander and Eliza Hamilton, and the story of Scripture into a tapestry that challenges people of faith to reexamine their lives.

God and Hamilton turned me inside out and revealed a side of Hamilton I had never thought to explore.Lauren Boyd, Hamilton Broadway Cast

A wonderful example of drawing from contemporary culture to understand how God works…I cannot recommend it more highly!―Mike Breen, Founder, 3DM; Author, Building a Disciplining Culture 

A bold and creative exploration of the themes in life that matter most. In this beautiful book, Kevin Cloud helps us see, listen, and open to the all-consuming love God pours out to us.―Phileen Heurtz, Founding Partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

For all who struggle with doubt, depression, and despair, God and Hamilton offers an inspiring way forward. Kevin Cloud’s book made my heart sing!Craig Detweiler, President, Seattle School of Theology and Sociology

Christianity Today, Here’s Every Biblical Reference in ‘Hamilton’:

Continue reading

August 28, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Brooks Reviews Givens's Radical Empathy: Finding A Path To Bridging Racial Divides

Susan L. Brooks (Drexel), Book Review, 5 Int'l J. Restorative Just. __ (2022) (reviewing Terri E. Givens, Radical Empathy: Finding A Path To Bridging Racial Divides (2021): 

Radical empathyIn her recent book, Dr. Terri Givens, a highly accomplished political scientist and entrepreneur, guides readers through the process of her own racial healing and invites them to create parallel journeys for themselves. Givens identifies the core element and requirement for the work of racial healing as empathy, which she defines as ‘the ability to see the world from another person’s perspective, in order to understand their feelings and life experiences.’ She uses the term ‘radical empathy’ to emphasize the need to move from feeling to doing, from recognizing the humanity in another person to taking action toward racial and social justice. Givens separates radical empathy into distinct steps representing the practices required to engage in this ongoing effort. These include becoming grounded in who you are, a willingness to be vulnerable, opening yourself to the experiences of others, and creating change and building trust. Throughout the book she demonstrates these practices by weaving together her personal and family narratives with scholarly writings on racial justice and other topics that represent highlights of her life experience and expertise, including leadership, healthcare, love and marriage, and European history. Consistent with Givens’ emphasis on action, at the end of each chapter she includes a set of suggested steps readers can take to move along the path toward creating positive personal and social transformation.

Continue reading

August 18, 2022 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Millennial Leadership In Law Schools: Essays On Disruption, Innovation, And The Future

Millennial Leadership in Law Schools: Essays on Disruption, Innovation, and the Future (Ashley Krenelka Chase (Stetson; Google Scholar), ed. 2021):

Millenial Leadership 3This book explores the role millennials will play—as faculty, administrators, or staff members—in shaping the future of legal education, and what the academy can do to embrace the millennial generation as colleagues, not students.

Section I brings together chapters that focus on the culture of law schools, and the need to embrace a new, forward-thinking and innovative way of defining what law schools are and do and how we educate students. The chapters in Section II focus on relationships: the relationships millennials in the academy have with ourselves, our institutions, and the community. Section III includes chapters that detail how Millennial leaders work in the classroom, how they use things like feedback and assessment to change the dynamic in the classroom and to innovate law school pedagogy to educate well-rounded lawyers. Section IV is an essential read for anyone who spends time thinking about the current legal economy and law schools’ roles in educating practice-ready lawyers. Finally, Section V includes chapters on change. Legal education has no choice but to evolve, and these authors present ideas on how to embrace millennial ideology to do just that.

Continue reading

August 13, 2022 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Shaviro Reviews Rebellion, Rascals, And Revenue: Tax Follies And Wisdom Through The Ages

Daniel Shaviro (NYU; Google Scholar), Tell Me a Tax Story (JOTWELL) (reviewing Michael Keen (IMF) & Joel Slemrod (Michigan; Google Scholar), Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom through the Ages (Princeton University Press 2021)) (reviewed by Reuven Avi-Yonah (Michigan; Google Scholar), Steven Bank (UCLA; Google Scholar), and Frank Colella (Pace)):

RebellionAs the saying ought to go, those who forget history are doomed to miss out on a lot of great stories. In Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom through the Ages, Michael Keen and Joel Slemrod do their formidable best to save us from this dire fate. They also amply fulfill their aim of proving the truth of their opening quotation, from H.L. Mencken, to the effect that taxation is not just “eternally lively” but of greater interest than “either smallpox or golf.”

Keen and Slemrod are also so impressively comprehensive in their self-set task of combing thousands of years of history, across multiple continents, for enjoyable or illuminating tax anecdotes that I started to take it as a challenge. I read a lot of history books on the side. So, could I think of stories worth including that they had left out?

This did not go so well. Taxes as the subject of the Rosetta Stone? Check. Window taxes, salt taxes, beard taxes, and taxes on bachelors? Of course. Classic-era British rock lyrics complaining about high taxes? Everyone knows about the Beatles in “Taxman,” but what about the Who in “Success Story”? Or the Kinks in “Sunny Afternoon”? Yes, they have all three. ...

Continue reading

August 11, 2022 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Monday, June 27, 2022

Shaviro: Stanley Surrey And The Public Intellectual Practice Of Tax Policy

Following up on my previous post, A Half-Century with the Internal Revenue Code: The Memoirs of Stanley S. Surrey (Lawrence Zelenak (Duke) & Ajay Mehrotra (Northwestern; Google Scholar) eds. Carolina Academic Press 2022) (reviewed by Tracey Roberts (Cumberland; Google Scholar) here): Daniel Shaviro (NYU), 'Moralist' Versus 'Scientist': Stanley Surrey and the Public Intellectual Practice of Tax Policy:

Stanley-surreyNearly forty years after his untimely death, Stanley Surrey, the renowned Harvard law professor (and Treasury official), remains perhaps the most important and influential tax law scholar in American history. The recent publication of his highly illuminating memoirs offers a convenient occasion for reassessing his work.

In offering such a reassessment, this essay takes its title from William F. Buckley’s 1974 observation that, while Surrey claimed to analyze tax policy issues with “scientific detachment,” in fact he was a tax “moralist,” whose policy recommendations were “based on a highly articulated set of personal value principles.” Largely agreeing with Buckley as a descriptive matter, the essay considers what Surrey’s work both gained and lost intellectually by hewing so strongly to a set of career-long, deeply held beliefs. Along the way, the essay contrasts Surrey’s moral and intellectual certainty with the skepticism and resistance to grand system-building of Boris Bittker of Yale Law School, Surrey’s only mid-century rival for intellectual leadership of the tax legal academy. ...

Continue reading

June 27, 2022 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Shaviro: Bonfires Of The American Dream In American Rhetoric, Literature And Film

Daniel Shaviro (NYU), Bonfires of the American Dream in American Rhetoric, Literature and Film (2022):

Shaviro 3How could American social solidarity have so collapsed that we cannot even cooperate in fighting a pandemic? One problem lies in how our values mutate and intersect in an era of runaway high-end inequality and evaporating upward mobility. Under such conditions, tensions rise between our egalitarian and democratic traditions on the one hand, and what we often call the “American Dream” of self-advancement and due reward on the other.

In our current Second Gilded Age, as in the first one from the late nineteenth century, the results of economic competition appear to suggest, falsely, that some of us are “winners” who deserve everything they have, while others are contemptible “losers.” The rich ostensibly owe the poor nothing — not even compassion or respect, and certainly not material aid through government.

In Bonfires of the American Dream, Daniel Shaviro develops these themes through close studies, in social context, of such classic novels and films as Atlas ShruggedThe Great GatsbyIt’s a Wonderful Life, and The Wolf of Wall Street. He thereby helps to provide a better understanding of what, apart from racism, has in recent years caused things to go so wrong culturally in America.

Daniel Shaviro, the Wayne Perry Professor of Taxation at NYU Law School, writes mainly about tax policy and inequality. Anthem Press published his well-regarded prior literary study, Literature and Inequality, in 2020.

Continue reading

June 23, 2022 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink

Book By Dan Markel's Mother: Murder, Grief, And The Trial

Ruth Markel, The Unveiling: A Mother's Reflection on Murder, Grief, and Trial Life (2022):

Markel BookRuth Markel is the mother of the late Dan Markel, a noted law professor who was murdered in Tallahassee, Florida in 2014.

In The Unveiling, she describes her experiences since the day of Dan’s death from several distinct perspectives:

  • As a devastated mother with the unique human perspective of becoming a homicide survivor and victim.
  • As a woman whose attempts to achieve normalcy and live a healthy life are continually interrupted by painful reminders, a rollercoaster of hearings, frequently changing trial dates, verdicts, and appeals.
  • As an engaged citizen using what she has learned to help other victims of homicide and violent crimes recover from trauma and begin an optimistic outlook on life.
  • As an insider who shows how our collective network of family, friends, and experts—including a murder coach—have helped her family remain involved, motivated, and hopeful.
  • As a grandmother who had not been allowed to see her grandchildren in many years, she used advocacy to inspire the Florida State Legislature to pass a grandparent visitation bill.
  • And as an experienced author of nine books using the written word to effectively address the shift from grief to promise.

Continue reading

June 23, 2022 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Piketty Calls For 'Participatory Socialism': $150,000/Person Universal Inheritance, 'Confiscatory' Income And Wealth Taxes

New York Times, Thomas Piketty's Case For 'Participatory Socialism':

Brief History of InequalityThe French economist Thomas Piketty is arguably the world’s greatest chronicler of economic inequality. For decades now, he has collected huge data sets documenting the share of income and wealth that has flowed to the top 1 percent. And the culmination of much of that work, his 2013 book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, quickly became one of the most widely read and cited economic texts in recent history.

Piketty’s new book, A Brief History of Equality, is perhaps his most optimistic work. In it, he chronicles the immense social progress that the U.S. and Europe have achieved over the past few centuries in the form of rising educational attainment, life expectancy and incomes. Of course, those societies still contain huge inequalities of wealth. But in Piketty’s view, this outcome isn’t an inevitability; it’s the product of policy choices that we collectively make — and could choose to make differently. And to that end, Piketty proposes a truly radical policy agenda — a universal minimum inheritance of around $150,000 per person, worker control over the boards of corporations and “confiscatory” levels of wealth and income taxation — that he calls “participatory socialism.”

Continue reading

June 16, 2022 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, June 5, 2022

WSJ Book Review: What Did Thomas Jefferson Really Think About God?

Wall Street Journal Book Review:  ‘Thomas Jefferson’ Review: The Spirit Was Partly Willing, by Barton Swaim (Editorial Page Writer, Wall Street Journal) (reviewing Thomas S. Kidd (Baylor; Google Scholar), Thomas Jefferson: A Biography of Spirit and Flesh (2022)):

Thomas JeffersonFor most of the 20th century, historians and biographers adopted a reverential tone toward the American Founders. That, as readers of these pages will not need to be told, has changed. A half-century ago the typical scholar would have expressed sincere regret that Washington, Jefferson, Madison et al. had owned slaves and failed to live up to the Declaration’s promise of equality. But that scholar would also have acknowledged their courage, intellectual rigor, sagacity and political skill. In the 2020s, by contrast, the Founders’ principal accomplishments are the depredation of native lands and the composition of a now-obsolete Constitution. And every Founder, slave-owner or not, stands more or less guilty of the one sin from which, in the post-Christian code of morality, there is no hope of redemption: white supremacy.

It’s tendentious and sanctimonious and productive of much bad writing, that’s true. But the move away from veneration may bring collateral benefits. There was a time when influential historians and high-ranking Democratic politicians revered Thomas Jefferson because he embodied their ideals of freethinking skepticism and disregard for tradition. That time has passed. Jefferson was a great and accomplished man, whatever his severest detractors might say. But the revelation in 1998 that he sired several children by an enslaved servant has made his repellent views on the subject of race impossible for his admirers to play down or excuse. The reputation of Jefferson the Enlightenment Hero has suffered in turn. It’s hard to praise a man for his courageous heterodoxy, belief in man’s unaided capacity for reason, and support for French revolutionary violence when he also compared blacks to subhumans and spurned the poetry of Phillis Wheatley solely because she was black.

What we need is a balanced reassessment of Jefferson’s thought and attitudes on God and religion. Thomas S. Kidd, a professor of history at Baylor, gives us that in his crisply written life Thomas Jefferson: A Biography of Spirit and Flesh.

Continue reading

June 5, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

WSJ Essay:  Why Most Pastors Avoid Politics

Wall Street Journal Essay:  Why Most Pastors Avoid Politics, by Ryan Burge (Baptist Pastor; Author, Twenty Myths About Religion and Politics in America (2022); and Assistant Professor of Political Science, Eastern Illinois University):

Rev. [Greg] Locke and Robert Jeffress ... are often raised up by critics as examples of how American Christianity has become overtly political, sparking a movement on social media to revoke the tax-exempt status of all U.S. churches.

In fact, research shows that only a very small fraction of American pastors invoke politics from the pulpit. The reason isn’t ministers’ fear of running afoul of the IRS, but instead a strategic calculation about their own careers and the future.

In 2019, I conducted a survey of 1,010 Protestant Christians asking them if they had heard their pastor discuss a list of 10 political issues from the pulpit over the previous year. The list ranged from simple encouragement to vote on election day to hot-button issues like abortion and gay rights. The survey showed that 30% had heard none of the issues discussed in church, while another 25% said they had heard only one. The most commonly mentioned issue was religious liberty, cited by 30% of respondents. Just a quarter of churchgoers said that they had heard a sermon about gay rights or abortion, and only 16% had ever heard Donald Trump’s name invoked from the pulpit.

Continue reading

June 5, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, May 29, 2022

NY Times Op-Ed: Work, Pray, Code — Work Is Replacing Religion In Silicon Valley (And Elsewhere)

New York Times Op-Ed:  When Your Job Fills In for Your Faith, That’s a Problem, by Sean Dong (UC-Berkeley; Co-Director, Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion; Co-Author, Work, Pray, Code: When Work Becomes Religion in Silicon Valley (2022))

Work Pray CodePlenty of writers have argued in recent years that work has become a false idol, with the office, not church, the place where many Americans now seek out meaning and purpose. As a sociologist of religion, I think these writers are right: Work is replacing — and in some cases, even taking the form of — religion among many of America’s professionals.

Between 2013 and 2018, I conducted over 100 interviews for my book “Work Pray Code.” Most of them were with tech workers based in Silicon Valley, people who told me over and over that their careers are “spiritual journeys” and their work is a “calling.” Many said they had become more spiritual, whole and connected after working in tech. Their workplaces were communities where they found belonging, meaning and purpose.

But as I discovered during my research, the gospel of work is thin gruel, an ethically empty solution to meet our essential need for belonging and meaning. And it is starving us as individuals and communities. ...

Worshiping work costs the rest of us, too. Today the theocracy of work increasingly governs life in other knowledge-industry hubs across America like Seattle, New York and Cambridge, Mass. It is hollowing out our faith communities and civic associations — the places where diverse groups of people hash out hard questions of moral value, the very questions that [people are] so hungry to engage with.

Across different faith traditions, clergy members in Silicon Valley say that their congregations are dwindling because people are too busy working. A few decades ago, a pastor told me, the typical member attended Sunday service and Sunday school most weeks. Today that member attends only Sunday service once a month, he said. And he is scraping for volunteers as never before.

Continue reading

May 29, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Christianity And Constitutional Law

Nicholas Aroney (TC Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland; Google Scholar), Christianity and Constitutional Law:

Christianity and ConstitutionalismThis paper, written for the forthcoming Oxford Handbook on Christianity and Law, edited by John Witte and Rafael Domingo, explores the influence of Christianity on constitutional law. The paper begins by pointing out that modern constitutional law is the product of several important historical influences. These include elements of Greek philosophy, Roman law, Christian theology, and Enlightenment principles. Greek philosophy proposed a classification of the basic types of constitution and introduced the idea of the rule of law. Roman law contributed the legal concept of jurisdiction, which is an essential feature of contemporary constitutional law. Christian theology offered a conceptual framework in which the authority of civil government was effectively qualified by a higher natural or divine law, and in which the spiritual authority of the church posed a practical limit on the temporal powers of the civil authority. Christian theology also provided the context in which the powers of civil and ecclesiastical rulers were tempered through various means, including the administration of oaths of office and the issuing of charters guaranteeing the rights of religious, social, economic, and civil associations of many kinds. The principle of the separation of powers and the establishment of written constitutions enforced by judicial review, although associated with the Enlightenment, also owed a great deal to these earlier principles and practices. The paper surveys the contribution of each of these influences and argues that although the Greek, Roman, and Enlightenment contributions have been important, constitutional law would not be what it is today if it were not for the influence of Christianity.

Continue reading

May 22, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink

Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Data-Driven Answer To A Rich And Happy Life

New York Times Op-Ed:  The Rich Are Not Who We Think They Are. And Happiness Is Not What We Think It Is, Either., by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz (Author, Don't Trust Your Gut: Using Data to Get What You Really Want in Life (2022)):

Don't Trust Your GutWe now know who is rich in America. And it’s not who you might have guessed.

A groundbreaking 2019 study by four economists, “Capitalists in the Twenty-First Century,” analyzed de-identified data of the complete universe of American taxpayers to determine who dominated the top 0.1 percent of earners.

The study didn’t tell us about the small number of well-known tech and shopping billionaires but instead about the more than 140,000 Americans who earn more than $1.58 million per year. The researchers found that the typical rich American is, in their words, the owner of a “regional business,” such as an “auto dealer” or a “beverage distributor.” ...

What are the lessons from the data on rich earners?

First, rich people own. Among members of the top 0.1 percent, the researchers found, about three times as many make the majority of their income from owning a business as from being paid a wage. Salaries don’t make people rich nearly as often as equity does. ...

Second, rich people tend to own unsexy businesses. ...

The third important factor in gaining wealth is some way to avoid ruthless price competition, to build a local monopoly. The prevalence of owners of auto dealerships among the top 0.1 percent gives a clue to what it takes to get rich. ...

If pop culture is right, getting rich is a path to happiness. Is that true? Does money actually make people happy?

Continue reading

May 21, 2022 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

A Half-Century With The Internal Revenue Code: The Memoirs Of Stanley Surrey

A Half-Century with the Internal Revenue Code: The Memoirs of Stanley S. Surrey (Lawrence Zelenak (Duke) & Ajay Mehrotra (Northwestern; Google Scholar) eds. Carolina Academic Press 2022):

SurreyStanley S. Surrey was the most prominent mid-twentieth-century American tax law academic, and the federal government official with the greatest influence on tax policy over that same period (aside from politicians). His professional life with the federal tax system spanned half a century, ending only with his death at the age of 73 in 1984. As Surrey writes in his memoirs, he had good reason to "doubt that any person alive today has had as close and as varied a relationship with the Internal Revenue Code as I have had."

He divided the five decades of his professional life between academia (three early years at the University of California, Berkeley, followed by many years at Harvard Law School), and two lengthy tours of duty in the service of the U.S. Treasury Department. In his second Treasury stint he served as the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy, the highest executive branch position exclusively focused on taxation. Surrey's influence on the federal tax system was deep and pervasive and continues to this day; perhaps his most enduring accomplishment has been his development of tax expenditure analysis, which since the 1970s has played a central role in a wide range of tax policy discussions.

Continue reading

May 17, 2022 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, May 15, 2022

WSJ Book Review: America's Book — The Rise and Decline Of A Bible Civilization

Wall Street Journal Book Review:  ‘America’s Book’ Review: The Word Out of Season, by D.G. Hart (Hillsdale College) (Reviewing Mark A. Noll (Notre Dame), America's Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794-1911 (2022)):

America's BookMany Americans born after 1960 have trouble imagining that for much of the country’s history the Bible was a chief source of national identity. ... Whether ceremonial or therapeutic, Bible-reading in public schools was, by the 1950s, among the last uncontested conventions of America’s Bible civilization.

Mark Noll’s Mark A. Noll (Notre Dame), America's Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794-1911 explains how the Bible achieved this status. The new nation’s rejection of European forms of Christendom such as sacral monarchy and state churches left the Bible to bear the burden of America’s attempt to create a Christian civilization. A completely secular republic was never a possibility except for the most free-thinking of free thinkers. The Founders virtually to a man insisted that a republic depended on a virtuous citizenry, and that the best source of morality was religion. Despite the variety of Protestant denominations, church leaders and public officials agreed that the Bible was the best and most reliable guide for determining moral consensus.

“America’s Book” documents the extent of the Bible’s reach—from the printing and distribution of Bibles and the creation of Sunday schools to the intellectual dead ends into which unwise handlers of the Bible were led. The book’s breadth is a tribute to Mr. Noll’s career as an interpreter of Protestantism in North America, even if its encyclopedic quantity occasionally obscures the overarching argument. ...

Continue reading

May 15, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A Critical Review Of Tax The Rich! And The Patriotic Millionaires

Michael Conklin (Angelo State; Google Scholar), We Must Raise Taxes on the Rich: A Critical Review of Tax the Rich! and the Patriotic Millionaires:

Tax the RichAt the 2021 Met Gala, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sparked controversy by wearing a “Tax the Rich” dress. Afterward, AOC championed the race of the dress designer and accused her critics of being sexist, while her critics pointed to the irony of such a message at a $30,000-a-ticket event designed to support the interests of the ultra-rich. But these points are largely irrelevant when considering if taxes on the rich should be increased. This is unfortunately also the level of discourse present in the book Tax the Rich! How Lies, Loopholes, and Lobbyists Make the Rich Even Richer. Anyone reading this book in an effort to better understand the arguments for and against raising taxes on the rich will be disappointed, as it largely provides neither. This review critiques the book for selectively omitted information, ignoring incentivization effects, and the appeal to emotion by villainizing the rich. These critiques provide a better understanding of the legitimate arguments for and against raising taxes on the rich and point to potential hypocrisy in groups such as the Patriotic Millionaires.

Continue reading

May 10, 2022 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

WSJ Essay:  In Praise of Anxiety

Wall Street Journal Essay:  In Praise of Anxiety, by Tracy Dennis-Tiwary (Hunter College; Author, Future Tense: Why Anxiety Is Good for You (Even Though It Feels Bad) (2022)):

Anxiety 2Anxiety can be used to create a deeper sense of personal fulfillment by striving toward excellence and savoring having a purpose in your life.

Nobody likes to feel anxious. Anxiety is among the most pervasive and reviled of human emotions. An entire industry has sprung up to aid us in eradicating it, from self-help books and holistic remedies to pharmaceuticals and cutting-edge cognitive behavioral therapy. Yet we are an ever more profoundly anxious society. Epidemiological studies show that over 100 million people in the U.S. will suffer from an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Rates, especially among the young, have been rising for the past decade. Our efforts to contain anxiety aren’t working.

As a clinical psychologist and neuroscience researcher, I have devoted the past 20 years to understanding difficult emotions like anxiety, and I believe that we mental health professionals have made a terrible mistake. We’ve convinced people that anxiety is a dangerous affliction and that the solution is to eliminate it, as we do with other diseases. But feeling anxious isn’t the problem. The problem is that we don’t understand how to respond constructively to anxiety. That’s why it’s increasingly hard to know how to feel good.

This “bad” feeling isn’t a malfunction or failure of mental health. It’s a triumph of human evolution, a response that emerged along with one of our greatest attributes: the ability to think about the uncertain future and prepare for it. Anxiety places us in the “future tense” (pun intended)—a state in which we are motivated not only to survive but to thrive, by being more persistent, hopeful and innovative.

Continue reading

May 10, 2022 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Hamilton & Bilionis: Law Student Professional Development and Formation: Bridging Law School, Student, and Employer Goals

Neil W. Hamilton (St. Thomas; Google Scholar) & Louis D. Bilionis (Cincinnati), Law Student Professional Development and Formation: Bridging Law School, Student, and Employer Goals (Cambridge University Press 2022):

Cambridge 3Law schools currently do an excellent job of helping students to 'think like a lawyer,' but empirical data show that clients, legal employers, and the legal system need students to develop a wider range of competencies. This book helps legal educators to understand these competencies and provides practical ways to build them into a law school curriculum. Based on recommendations from the American Bar Association, the American Association of Law Schools, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, it will equip students with the skills they need not only to think but to act and feel like a lawyer. With this proposed model, students will internalize the need for professional development toward excellence, their responsibility to others, a client-centered approach to problem solving, and strong well-being practices. These four goals constitute a lawyer's professional identity, and this book empowers legal educators to foster each student's development of a professional identity that leads to a gratifying career that serves society well. This title is Open Access.

Reviews:

Continue reading

May 3, 2022 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink

Monday, May 2, 2022

WSJ: Annual Reviews And OKRs Are A Terrible Way To Evaluate Employees

Wall Street Journal:  Annual Reviews Are a Terrible Way to Evaluate Employees, by Marcus Buckingham (Author, Love + Work: How to Find What You Love, Love What You Do, and Do It for the Rest of Your Life (Harvard Business Review Press 2022)):

Love + Work 3Gallup data from the 2020 version of their continuing workplace research reveal that 86% of employees don’t think their annual review is accurate. In a 2018 Adobe Inc. study of a representative sample of 1,500 office workers, 22% reported that they’d even burst into tears during their review.

For millions, the annual performance review is akin to going to a bad dentist: Before you go, you dread it; while you’re there, it’s painful; after it’s done, nothing’s fixed. And yet the annual review remains a reality for most workers. ...

The failings of the annual performance review fall into three broad buckets:

They are too infrequent.
Goals set at the beginning of the year are irrelevant by the third week of the year. Data from ADP’s human-resources systems reveal that, after inputting their goals, fewer than 4% of people go back and check their goals even once during the year. In the real world, your actual work has precious little to do with your goals. Work happens in a continuing flow, hour-to-hour, day-to-day, week-to-week. ...

They are dehumanizing. ...

They are irrelevant to real-world performance.
Each worker is unique in what they love and loathe about their work. Even those who excel at the very same job excel differently—excellence in any job is idiosyncratic. Research from the ADP Research Institute’s series of global studies of more than 50,000 workers from 27 countries reveals that workers who report they find love in what they do, and are good at it, are far more likely to be engaged, resilient, and experience less stress on the job, regardless of what their job is. They are far less likely to express an intent to leave, or even to be actively interviewing for a new job. ...

The annual review should be dead, a relic of MBO’s, KRA’s, OKR’s and all those falsely precise acronyms spawned in the Jack Welchian 80s and Andy Grovian 90s. But they aren’t. They live on—still today, OKR’s lurk inside the performance appraisals at many Silicon Valley tech giants. And they are among the reasons so many companies will wonder why they can’t keep their talent. Why one day ... sound, hardworking, well-intentioned people suddenly up and quit.

Continue reading

May 2, 2022 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, May 1, 2022

WSJ Op-Ed: How God Works — The Science Behind The Benefits Of Religion

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  Does Religion Make People More Ethical?, by David DeSteno (Northeastern; Google Scholar; Author, How God Works: The Science Behind the Benefits of Religion (2021)):

How God Works[W]hen it comes to morality, the power of religion is more in the doing than in the believing. Studies of religion and health show that identifying with a religion—saying you believe in God or going to worship once a year on Easter or Yom Kippur—means very little. Epidemiological research shows that it is people who live their faith, regularly going to services and engaging in their religion’s rituals, who tend to live longer, healthier and happier lives.

In most faiths, being religious isn’t just defined by a creed but by rituals and practices that permeate daily life. When we pray and sing together, listen to readings from scripture, or give offerings and blessings of thanks to God, our minds and bodies aren’t passive. They’re subtly being nudged toward virtue.

Take giving to charity. A large-scale 2017 study by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy [Special Report on Giving to Religion] showed that in the U.S., 62% of religiously active households gave to charity, with an average donation of $1,590. By contrast, only 46% of nonreligious households give, with an average donation of $695. And increased attendance at religious services is associated with increased generosity.  ...

[W]hen people feel gratitude, elevation and compassion more frequently, they become more moral in general. While this might seem at odds with the commonly held view that qualities like honesty or generosity are stable personality traits, scientists now recognize that morality is really more of a moment-to-moment balancing act between competing motives. From about the age of 7 onward, children spend a good deal of time learning how to exert self-control so they can inhibit their less-than-noble desires.

Continue reading

May 1, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, April 24, 2022

God, Grades, And Graduation: Religion's Surprising Impact On Academic Success

New York Times Op-Ed:  I Followed the Lives of 3,290 Teenagers. This Is What I Learned About Religion and Education, by Ilana M. Horwitz (Fields-Rayant Chair of Contemporary Jewish Life, Tulane University; Author, God, Grades, and Graduation: Religion's Surprising Impact on Academic Success (Oxford University Press 2022) (author summary) (author interview)):

God Grades And GraduationAs a sociologist of education and religion, I followed the lives of 3,290 teenagers from 2003 to 2012 using survey and interview data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, and then linking those data to the National Student Clearinghouse in 2016. I studied the relationship between teenagers’ religious upbringing and its influence on their education: their school grades, which colleges they attend and how much higher education they complete. My research focused on Christian denominations because they are the most prevalent in the United States.

I found that what religion offers teenagers varies by social class. Those raised by professional-class parents, for example, do not experience much in the way of an educational advantage from being religious. In some ways, religion even constrains teenagers’ educational opportunities (especially girls’) by shaping their academic ambitions after graduation; they are less likely to consider a selective college as they prioritize life goals such as parenthood, altruism and service to God rather than a prestigious career.

However, teenage boys from working-class families, regardless of race, who were regularly involved in their church and strongly believed in God were twice as likely to earn bachelor’s degrees as moderately religious or nonreligious boys.

Religious boys are not any smarter, so why are they doing better in school? The answer lies in how religious belief and religious involvement can buffer working-class Americans — males in particular — from despair. ...

Continue reading

April 24, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Colin Diver: The Rankings Farce

Chronicle of Higher Education Op-Ed:  The Rankings Farce, by Colin Diver:

Breaking Ranks‘U.S. News’ and its ilk embrace faux-precise formulas riven with statistical misconceptions. ...

On July 1, 2002, I became president of Reed College in Portland, Ore. As I began to fill the shelves in my office with mementos from my previous life as a law-school dean, I could feel the weight already lifting from my shoulders. “I’m no longer subject to the tyranny of college rankings,” I thought. “I don’t need to worry about some news magazine telling me what to do.”

Seven years before my arrival at Reed, my predecessor, Steven S. Koblik, decreed that Reed would no longer cooperate with the annual U.S. News Best Colleges rankings. ...

There is a growing cottage industry of college evaluators, many spurred by the commercial success of U.S. News. I call it the “rankocracy” — a group of self-appointed, mostly profit-seeking journalists who claim for themselves the role of arbiters of educational excellence in our society. It wasn’t just the U.S. News rankings that were incompatible with Reed’s values. Virtually the whole enterprise of listing institutions in an ordinal hierarchy of quality involves faux precision, dubious methodologies, and blaring best-college headlines. To make matters worse, the entire structure rests on mostly unaudited, self-reported information of dubious reliability. In recent months, for example, the data supporting Columbia’s second place U.S. News ranking have been questioned, the University of Southern California’s School of Education has discovered a “history of inaccuracies” in its rankings data, and Bloomberg’s business-school rankings have been examined for perceived anomalies. ...

I came by my rankings aversion honestly. In 1989, I became the dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s law school. The next year, U.S. News began to publish annual rankings of law schools. Over the next nine years of my deanship, its numerical pronouncements hovered over my head like a black cloud. During those years, for reasons that remained a complete mystery to me, Penn Law’s national position would oscillate somewhere between seventh and 12th. Each upward movement would be a cause for momentary exultation; each downward movement, a cause for distress.

Continue reading

April 13, 2022 in Book Club, Law School Rankings, Legal Ed Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

NY Times: Thomas Piketty Thinks America Is Primed For Wealth Redistribution

New York Times, Thomas Piketty Thinks America Is Primed for Wealth Redistribution:

PikettyIn 2013, the French economist Thomas Piketty, in his best seller Capital in the Twenty-First Century, a book eagerly received in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse, put forth the notion that returns on capital historically outstrip economic growth (his famous r>g formula). The upshot? The rich get richer, while the rest of us stay stuck in the mud. Now, nearly a decade later, Piketty is set to publish A Brief History of Equality, in which he argues that we’re on a trajectory of greater, not less, equality and lays out his prescriptions for remedying our current corrosive wealth disparities. (In short: Tax the rich.) If the line from one book to the other looks slightly askew given the state of the world, then, Piketty suggests, you’re looking from the wrong vantage point. “I am relatively optimistic,” says Piketty, who is 50, “about the fact that there is a long-run movement toward more equality, which goes beyond the little details of what happens within a specific decade.” ...

What did you think of the billionaire tax that Biden just proposed?
It would have been better before his election. If you had told the American public before the elections that he wanted a wealth tax — which again is something that is very high in opinion polls — this would have been much easier. This could have forced the Democratic Congress to take a stand. It’s more complicated now. But if it works, it’s better than nothing. ...

You know, I do find it hard to wrap my head around the idea that after 40 years of worsening inequality, you — the inequality guy, Mr. r>g — are publishing a book saying we’re on the right track historically. It’s sort of cold comfort to know we’re more equal today than we were 100 or 200 years ago. Really give me a reason to feel as optimistic as you do. 

Continue reading

April 5, 2022 in Book Club, Tax, Tax News, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, April 3, 2022

WSJ Book Review: The Flag And The Cross — Defining Christian Nationalism

Wall Street Journal Book Review:  D.G. Hart (Hilldale College), Defining Christian Nationalism (reviewing The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy (Apr. 1, 2022)):

How pervasive is Christian nationalism in the United States? Before answering, a more pressing question is: What is it? Here the people paid to define our terms are all over the place. Christian nationalism can involve a national church like the Church of Scotland. It can be a form of civil religion, as in “one nation under God.” It can also dissolve into American exceptionalism: “a city set on a hill.” Whatever the definition, attaching national or civic meaning to divine purpose is as old as recorded history.

It is also everywhere in America. When Franklin D. Roosevelt explained his administration’s reasons for entering World War II, the president did not hesitate to invoke God or quote the Bible. “The world is too small to provide adequate ‘living room’ for both Hitler and God,” he told Americans. “We are inspired by a faith that goes back through all the years to the first chapter of the Book of Genesis: ‘God created man in His own image.’ ”

Seventy years later when filmmaker Aaron Sorkin wrote the lines delivered by a news anchor in the first episode of HBO’s The Newsroom, the religious component of Christian nationalism may have been invisible but the appeal to moral purpose was pronounced. After lamenting America’s decline, the news anchor explained what made America great: “We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed. We cared about our neighbors.” He might well have asked: What did Jesus do?

Continue reading

April 3, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Monday, March 14, 2022

Good With Words: Speaking And Presenting

Patrick Barry (Michigan), Good with Words: Speaking and Presenting (2021)

Good With WordsSuppose you were good with words. Suppose when you decided to speak, the message you delivered—and the way you delivered it—successfully connected with your intended audience. What would that mean for your career prospects? What would that mean for your comfort level in social situations? And perhaps most importantly, what would that mean for your satisfaction with the personal relationships you value the most?

This book is designed to help you find out. Based on an award-winning course and workshop series at the University of Michigan taken by students training to enter a wide range of fields—law, business, medicine, social work, public policy, design, engineering, and many more—it removes the guesswork from figuring out how to communicate clearly and compellingly. All of us have ideas that are worth sharing. Why not learn how to convey yours in a way that people will appreciate, enjoy, and remember?

Continue reading

March 14, 2022 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, February 13, 2022

WSJ: God And Man At Yale Law School

Wall Street Journal, God and Man at Yale Law:

After DisbeliefAnthony Kronman grew up in an atheist household. Now he’s determined to convince American elites of the existence of ‘divinity.’

Was it divinely ordained that a boy raised by aggressively atheist parents would one day, in his eighth decade, make a passionate public case for God? This mischievous thought crosses my mind as I speak to Anthony Kronman, whose book After Disbelief: On Disenchantment, Disappointment, Eternity and Joy, forthcoming in March, aims to persuade America’s “relentlessly rational” elites to acknowledge the existence of “divinity.”

Those elites include his colleagues at Yale Law School, where Mr. Kronman, 76, is a professor and former dean. “In the academic circles in which I live and work,” Mr. Kronman writes, “the only respectable view of God is that he doesn’t exist.” He elaborates in an interview, saying that they regard his public professions of spirituality with “skeptical bemusement.” To the extent religion figures in their conversations at all, “it often does so as a synonym for prejudice and superstition—the attitude [Barack] Obama expressed, in an unguarded moment, when he made his regrettable comments about ‘guns and religion’ ” while seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

Mr. Kronman’s ambition is to repair “the schism between those for whom religion continues to matter and those who view it with amusement or contempt.” The political implications of this split are especially profound in America, which Mr. Kronman says is unlike any other country in both its “commitment to secular values” and the “seriousness with which it takes religious beliefs.” The combination of the two has frequently been a source of national strength, but in recent decades it has given rise to hostility and bitterness.

“After Disbelief” approaches the problem by giving each side its philosophical due. Mr. Kronman argues that the scientific conviction that everything in the world is “knowable and explicable” collides with the practical reality that we can never know everything—that the questions are “inexhaustible” because new ones arise from every answer. ...

Continue reading

February 13, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Cooper: After The Fact

National Jurist, A Legal Thriller:

CooperDo you like legal thrillers but hate how they never feature tax attorneys? Quinnipiac School of Law professor Jeff Cooper has you covered. Cooper’s debut novel “After the Fact” was released in November 2021 and tells the tale of Jack Collins, who joins a famous law firm in New York City, leaving behind a small Connecticut practice. He thinks he’s hit the big time, but not all is what it seems.

Jeff Cooper (Quinnipiac), After the Fact (2021):

When Jack Collins leaves a small Connecticut law practice to join one of the nation’s most prestigious firms, he trades a nondescript office for an elite one in a gleaming New York City skyscraper. He basks in the pride of working with people far more glamorous than those he left behind, including a famous boss, an alluring coworker, and a well-known client, Abigail Walker, the wealthy widow of a senator.

Jack thinks he’s on the path to glory, but he’s really a victim of deceit, a pawn in a game he doesn’t even know he’s playing. His new boss harbors deep secrets, his seductive coworker is not the person he thinks she is, and his new law firm is at the very center of a blackmail plot involving the widow Walker.

Continue reading

February 12, 2022 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Simkovic: Did New Deal Liberalism Steer Too Far To The Right?

Michael Simkovic (USC; Google Scholar), Did New Deal Liberalism Steer Too Far to the Right?, 174 Tax Notes Fed. 681 (Jan. 31, 2022) (reviewing A Half-Century With the Internal Revenue Code: The Memoirs of Stanley S. Surrey (Ajay K. Mehrotra (Northwestern; Google Scholar) & Lawrence Zelenak (Duke), eds. 2022):

Tax Notes Federal (2020)Ajay K. Mehrotra, professor of law at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, and Lawrence Zelenak, the Pamela B. Gann Professor of Law at Duke Law School, have prepared a sparkling introduction to the recently discovered memoirs of Stanley S. Surrey, which they have also edited for publication.

Surrey was a tour de force in the legal academy and government. His career spanned the rise, peak, and fall of New Deal liberalism and the triumph of Reagan-Thatcherism that followed. Mehrotra and Zelenak deftly portray Surrey’s life against the backdrop of broader social forces and trends. Their sympathy for their subject shines through the essay, but it never veers into hagiography.

Continue reading

February 9, 2022 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Analysts, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, January 30, 2022

The Power Of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward

Wall Street Journal Saturday Essay:  ‘No Regrets’ Is No Way to Live, by Daniel H. Pink (Author, The Power Of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward (2022)):

Power of Regret“No Regrets.” It’s an alluring motto, a handy recipe for success and satisfaction. Reject the pain of looking backward, revel in the pleasure of dreaming forward, and the good life will ensue.

Little wonder that this simple maxim transcends political and cultural divides. The Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale —Christian, conservative, mentor to Republican presidents—urged his followers to drop the very word “regret” from their vocabularies. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg —Jewish, liberal, appointee of Democratic presidents—concurred. “Waste no time on…regret,” she counseled in her 2016 book, “My Own Words.” Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald recorded a song called “No Regrets” in 1968—as did country star Emmylou Harris in 1989 and rapper Eminem in 2020. Some people endorse this world view so deeply that they tattoo the two-word credo on their bodies.

Yet for all its intuitive appeal, the “No Regrets” approach is an unsustainable blueprint for living. At a time like ours—when teenagers are battling unprecedented mental-health challenges, adults are gripped by doubt over their financial future, and the cloud of an enduring pandemic casts uncertainty over all of our decisions—it is especially counterproductive.

For the last three years, I have examined several decades of research on the science of regret. At the same time, I have collected and analyzed more than 16,000 individual descriptions of regret from people in 105 countries who responded to my online survey invitation. ...

The conclusion from both the science and the survey is clear: Regret is not dangerous or abnormal. It is healthy and universal, an integral part of being human. Equally important, regret is valuable. It clarifies. It instructs. Done right, it needn’t drag us down; it can lift us up. ...

Continue reading

January 30, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Monday, January 3, 2022

Livingston: Tax And Culture

Michael A. Livingston (Rutgers), Tax and Culture: Convergence, Divergence, and the Future of Tax Law (Cambridge University Press 2020):

LivingstonTax scholars traditionally emphasize economics and assume that all tax systems can be evaluated in more or less the same way. By applying the insights of anthropology, sociology, and other social sciences, Michael A. Livingston demonstrates that tax systems frequently pursue different values and that the convergence of tax systems is frequently overstated. In Tax and Culture, he applies these insights to specific countries, such as China and India, and specific tax issues, including progressivity, tax avoidance, and the emerging area of environmental taxation. Livingston concludes that the concept of a global tax culture is, in many cases, merely a reflection of Western hegemony, and is unlikely to survive the changes implicit in the rise of non-Western nations and cultures.

The book Tax and Culture: Convergence, Divergence, and the Future of Tax Law, by Michael Livingston, makes an exceptionally valuable contribution to the field of critical tax scholarship, and to tax legal scholarship more broadly. — Ann Mumford, British Tax Review

January 3, 2022 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, January 2, 2022

If You Can Only Read One Book In 2022: Believing Is Seeing Is A Life-Changing Choice

Following up on my previous post, Why Atheists Need Faith:  Mark Tapscott (HillFaith), Believing Is Seeing: Once Upon a Time, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away:

Believing Is Seeing 5If you can only read one book in 2022, Believing is Seeing by Dr. Michael Guillen could well be a life-changing choice regardless whether you are a determined atheist, a hard-nosed scientific materialist, or a Bible-believing Christian.

The subtitle of the book describes this work perfectly: A Physicist Explains How Science Shattered His Atheism and Revealed the Necessity of Faith.

But Guillen is not just any physicist, he’s one with expertise in physics, astronomy and mathematics, an award-winning former Harvard professor and for years the ABC News Science Editor.

To get a deeper idea of why I recommend this book so highly, check out the following excerpt from pages eight and nine of the book as he describes the beginning of his realization as a Cornell graduate student that the universe is vastly more complicated than he had ever dreamed:

Very quickly, I learned that galaxies rotate slowly, like enormous merry-go-rounds. According to a scientific law called the Virial Theorem, the more massive the galaxy, the faster it spins.

I also learned that galaxies spin much faster than they should, in apparent violation of the Virial Theorem. It’s as if they are far more massive than they appear — like they’re bloated with some kind of unseen material that makes them spin abnormally fast. My astronomy professors called this mystery the Missing-Mass Problem.

Today, we call this hypothetical missing mass Dark Matter. Based on what little we know, we speculate it could be an entirely new invisible form of matter, ruled by an entirely new kind of force. But honestly, we don’t know what it is — or even if it really exists.

More recently, we’ve discovered another oddity about the heavens that is also totally invisible: Dark Energy. From what we can tell (which is precious little), it behaves like a repulsive force that causes the universe to balloon out an accelerating speed.

And get this: Together, Dark Matter and Dark Energy seem to constitute 95 percent of the entire universe. That’s right, scientist now believe that 95 percent of the universe is invisible to us.

Continue reading

January 2, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Law Teaching Strategies For A New Era: Beyond The Physical Classroom

Tessa L. Dysart (Arizona) & Tracy Norton (Touro), Law Teaching Strategies for a New Era: Beyond the Physical Classroom (2021):

Law Teaching StrategiesThe abrupt move to online legal education in Spring 2020 accelerated the move to online legal education that has been slowing gathering steam in recent years. As more institutions consider the potential to expand their reach with online courses and programs, law professors must move past “pandemic teaching” and seriously consider how they can create and deliver quality legal education online.

Law Teaching Strategies for a New Era: Beyond the Physical Classroom, the first comprehensive book on online legal education, explores techniques, tools, and strategies that can assist all types of law professors in that endeavor. The thirty-four chapters, authored by law professors from across the country, provide a comprehensive look at expanding legal education beyond the traditional classroom experience. Divided into four sections, the book starts by offering tips for getting started and fostering inclusion in online courses.  It then moves to suggestions for course design of blended, synchronous, and asynchronous courses, including a chapter on measuring success through empirical research.

Continue reading

December 9, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Steven Dean Hosts A Conversation With Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor Today On Race For Profit At Brooklyn

Brooklyn

Steven Dean (Brooklyn) hosts a conversation today at Brooklyn with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (Princeton), author of the book, Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership (University of North Carolina Press 2019) at 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET.

Continue reading

November 11, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink