Paul L. Caron
Dean




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.

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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.

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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. ...

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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. ...

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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. ...

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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. ...

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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.

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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. 

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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?

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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?

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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. ...

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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.

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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.

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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. ...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Law Prof Novel: Cost Of Arrogance; L.A. Book Launch On Nov. 12

Although I read a lot of my faculty's scholarship, Cost of Arrogance: A Jake Clearwater Legal Thriller by Harry Caldwell is the first faculty novel I've read. A book launch event will be held this Friday, November 12, from 2:00 - 5:00 PM PT at the Figueroa Brewing Company in Westlake Village, California:

Cost of ArroganceA despicable client hell-bent on being executed, a vengeful and formidable opponent, and a reluctant Supreme Court, confront Jake Clearwater as he undertakes a daunting and unforgiving challenge.

Clearwater, a law professor [at a fictional law school in Malibu, California] and former prosecutor, is urged by a group named the Death Penalty Project to help stem the tide of wrongful death penalty convictions by agreeing to represent Duane Durgeon, a hulking, hard-boiled bad ass, despite Durgeon's demand to be executed. What follows is a riveting tale of courtroom drama, suspense, and the exquisite working of law and ultimately of justice.

Paul Caron
5.0 out of 5 stars  A Great Courtroom Thriller

Cost of Arrogance is written with all the élan and verve of a John Grisham novel. Jake Clearwater is an unforgettable character who takes us inside the halls of a fictional law school in Malibu and august California courtrooms. This is a legal thriller in the best sense: a fascinating plot with surprising twists and turns that leave the reader rooting for Jake to prevail against all odds. Lawyers and law students will love this book, as will anyone who enjoys a rollicking read about the pursuit of justice in 21st century America.

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November 9, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Afterlife Of Rachel Held Evans: Wholehearted Faith

The New Yorker:  The Afterlife of Rachel Held Evans:

Evans 4When the beloved Christian thinker died, at thirty-seven, she left behind a legacy of constant spiritual questioning—and an unfinished memoir. ...

Although she was only thirty-seven when she died, Held Evans had become a beloved figure in the landscape of American religion. The author of five popular books on Christianity [Faith Unraveled (2010); A Year of Biblical Womanhood (2012); Searching for Sunday (2015); Inspired (2018); What is God Like? (2021)], she employed self-deprecating wit and practical exegesis to critique the conservative evangelical subculture in which she was raised. Held Evans embodied a movement that emerged in the two-thousands among people who were becoming disillusioned with evangelicalism. Many were fleeing their churches—the portion of white evangelicals in the population dropped from twenty-three per cent to fourteen per cent between 2006 and 2020—and, to outsiders, their departure looked like the secularization of America. But the demographic was more varied than it seemed; many evangelicals were leaving megachurches with praise bands and coffee bars, but not abandoning a belief in Jesus.

To these earnest seekers, Held Evans became a patron saint. “Every generation needs dissenters, and Rachel was a sharp, faithful prophet in our midst,” Anthea Butler, the author of “White Evangelical Racism,” told me. With humility and openness, Held Evans helped reintroduce a mode of spiritual inquiry in America that was based in seeking mystery, not certainty. “She made Christianity seem like a decent place to be while you asked questions, rather than something you had to abandon to be free,” Kathryn Lofton, a professor of religious studies at Yale, said. Held Evans quickly became a major spiritual figure, appearing on television shows and serving as one of President Obama’s faith advisers. “I think Rachel would be the first person to scoff at any attempt to beatify her,” Sarah Bessey, her friend, told me. “She’s one of the few spiritual teachers I’ve known who had the humility to regularly ask herself, ‘What if I’m wrong?’ ”

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October 31, 2021 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, October 24, 2021

NY Times Op-Ed: How I Learned That Jesus Is Black

New York Times op-ed:  How I Learned That Jesus Is Black, by Danté Stewart (Author, Shoutin’ in the Fire: An American Epistle (2021)):

Shoutin in the FireFor years, I made my home with white people in white churches. I knew how to run and to hide and to move my body in ways that made white people feel more safe and less racist and more godly and less violent. Whether on the football field or in the pulpit, my performance gave them what they never deserved: confidence that the world was OK.

It started in college at Clemson University, where I played on the nationally ranked football team. Many young Black athletes like me left home and quickly found ourselves around white Christians because they were the ones who had greatest access to us. Between Bible studies and church outings, our worlds became white, our Jesus became a blond-haired and blue-eyed savior. This Jesus cared about touchdowns and Bible verses written in white letters underneath our eyes over the black paint.

As the weeks and months and years went by, I found myself closer and closer to white people. After graduating from college, I joined a white evangelical church and entered seminary in the hopes of becoming a pastor there. In my pursuit to be a better person and a better athlete and a better Christian, I viewed Black sermons and Black songs and Black buildings and Black shouting and Black loving with skepticism and white sermons and white songs and white buildings and white clapping with sacredness.

But before long, images of Black people dying started appearing all over our televisions and newspapers and newsfeeds. And too many of the nice white people around me just didn’t seem to care. And I knew: I had to find a way to get free and survive. ...

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October 24, 2021 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

NY Times Op-Ed: What Does A University Owe Democracy?

New York Times op-ed:  What Does a University Owe Democracy?, by David Brooks:

OweLast November, Dorian Abbot, a geophysicist at the University of Chicago, posted a series of slide presentations on YouTube making a case against the use of group identity as a primary criterion in selection processes. He was immediately targeted for cancellation.

So Robert Zimmer, Chicago’s magnificent president (now chancellor), stepped in with a clear statement of support for academic freedom. The controversy evaporated.

Then, in August, Abbot and a co-writer published an op-ed in Newsweek making the case that diversity, equity and inclusion policies violate “the ethical and legal principle of equal treatment.” It led to another cancellation campaign, this time in protest of his invitation to deliver the prestigious Carlson Lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was going to speak about “Climate and the Potential for Life on Other Planets.”

This time, the campaign worked. As Abbot has detailed, a department chair called to tell him the school would be canceling the lecture “in order to avoid controversy.”

The two episodes are a stark illustration of the difference between the culture of intellectual courage nurtured by Zimmer and the Coward Culture at work at M.I.T. and other institutions ostensibly invested in the cause of free expression.

It’s also a reminder that our universities are failing at the task of educating students in the habits of a free mind. Instead, they are becoming islands of illiberal ideology and factories of moral certitude, more often at war with the values of liberal democracy than in their service.

I’ve been thinking about all this while reading “What Universities Owe Democracy” by Johns Hopkins University’s president, Ronald Daniels.  ...

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October 20, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Secret To A Happy And Meaningful Life: Choose Suffering

Wall Street Journal Saturday Essay:  Why We Choose to Suffer: The Struggle for a Meaningful Life, by Paul Bloom (University of Toronto; Author, The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning):

Sweet SpotIn the search for a meaningful life, simply seeking pleasure isn’t enough. We need struggle and sacrifice.

The simplest theory of human nature is that we work as hard as we can to avoid ... [painful] experiences. We pursue pleasure and comfort; we hope to make it through life unscathed. Suffering and pain are, by their very nature, to be avoided. ... .

But this theory is incomplete. Under the right circumstances and in the right doses, physical pain and emotional pain, difficulty and failure and loss, are exactly what we are looking for. ...

Consider ... chosen suffering. People, typically young men, sometimes choose to go to war, and while they don’t wish to be maimed or killed, they are hoping to experience challenge, fear and struggle—to be baptized by fire, to use the clichéd phrase. Some of us choose to have children, and usually we have some sense of how hard it will be. Maybe we even know of all the research showing that, moment by moment, the years with young children can be more stressful than any other time of life. (And those who don’t know this ahead of time will quickly find out.) And yet we rarely regret such choices. More generally, the projects that are most central to our lives involve suffering and sacrifice.

The importance of suffering is old news. It is part of many religious traditions, including the story in Genesis of how original sin condemned us to a life of struggle. It is central to Buddhist thought—the focus of the Four Noble Truths.

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October 17, 2021 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Can Robert’s Rules Of Order Help Cure What Ails Universities, Law Schools, And America?

Inside Higher Ed, Author Discusses Robert’s Rules of Order and Why It Matters for Colleges and Universities Today

Roberts Rules of OrderRobert’s Rules of Order was first published in 1876. And today it continues to influence many organizations that use the book, including colleges, universities and academic organizations. Princeton University Press has just published the original book along with an essay by Christopher P. Loss, associate professor of education and history at Vanderbilt University, under a new title, Robert’s Rules of Order and Why It Matters for Colleges and Universities Today (Princeton University Press Sept. 2021).

Loss responded to questions about the book via email. ...

Q: You note that Robert’s Rules was embraced by American higher education at a time when “white male privilege” dominated student and faculty life. Why shouldn’t Robert’s Rules fade away with white male privilege?

A: American higher education in the late 19th century in many ways reflected the intellectual and social interests and sensibilities of white men like Henry Martyn Robert, West Point Class of 1857. Some would argue it still does. At the same time, the higher education sector was far more institutionally diverse than is often recognized and included liberal arts colleges and a mix of public as well as private Black-serving institutions and women’s colleges and normal schools that also used Robert’s Rules. For example, Howard University was an early adopter, and women’s organizations were and remained among Robert’s most devoted followers. American higher education, like our nation, had to work hard to realize its democratic potential in the 20th century, and it turns out that Robert’s Rules played a key, if surprising, role in that still-unfinished process. ...

Q: Many associate American campuses with uncivil debate. Could Robert’s Rules change that?

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October 2, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Peter Thiel Gamed Silicon Valley, Donald Trump, And Democracy To Make Billions, Tax-Free

Bloomberg Businessweek, Peter Thiel Gamed Silicon Valley, Donald Trump, and Democracy to Make Billions, Tax-Free:

American OligarchIn an exclusive excerpt from The Contrarian, a new biography, the disruption-preaching power broker is revealed as just another rich guy desperate to keep his fortune from the IRS.

Trump’s presidency would not end badly for Thiel, who didn’t comment for this article, adapted from my forthcoming book, The Contrarian. Thiel’s companies would win government contracts, and his net worth would soar—and it would, crucially, remain in the legal tax shelter that he’s spent half his career trying to protect. As a venture capitalist, Thiel had made it his business to find up-and-comers, invest in their success, and then sell his stock when it was financially advantageous to do so. Now he was doing the same with a U.S. president.

Thiel is sometimes portrayed as the tech industry’s token conservative, a view that wildly understates his power. More than any other living Silicon Valley investor or entrepreneur—more so even than Bezos, or Page, or Facebook co-founder and Thiel protégé Mark Zuckerberg—he has been responsible for creating the ideology that has come to define Silicon Valley today: that technological progress should be pursued relentlessly, with little if any regard for potential costs or dangers to society. Thiel isn’t the richest tech mogul, but he has been, in many ways, the most influential. ...

By the fall of 2020, published estimates were putting Thiel’s personal net worth at around $5 billion, roughly double what it had been before Trump was elected. This was a reflection of his stake in Palantir, which had gone public in August at a valuation of around $20 billion. Thiel then owned about 20% of the company and also held stakes in a number of others whose fortunes had soared. Besides Anduril, there was SpaceX, which was now worth as much as $100 billion thanks in part to a booming business with the federal government, and Airbnb, which had recently gone public. By any financial measure, it had been a good four years.

But those who know Thiel say that even these estimates were probably way too conservative and that his true net worth was closer to $10 billion, possibly much more. That was partly because he had quietly accumulated stakes in a handful of private companies with exceedingly high valuations, including the online payments startup Stripe; a person close to Thiel figures his share is worth at least $1.5 billion. But it was also because Thiel was shielding a large percentage of his investment assets from taxes of any kind.

The strategy was legal, even if it was, from the standpoint of any normal sense of fairness, outrageous.

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September 28, 2021 in Book Club, Tax, Tax News | Permalink

Monday, September 20, 2021

WSJ: How A Tech Mogul Pushed Through The Opportunity Zones Tax Break

Wall Street Journal Essay:  How a Tech Mogul Pushed Through a Tax Break, by David Wessel (Brookings Institution; Author, Only the Rich Can Play: How Washington Works in the New Gilded Age (Oct. 2021)):

Only the RichSean Parker lobbied to create Opportunity Zones to encourage development in low-income areas, but so far the main beneficiaries are investors wanting lower taxes.

The U.S. tax code is larded with provisions that the wealthy use to reduce their taxes. Some get a lot of attention, while some are inserted into tax bills very quietly—like Opportunity Zones, or OZs.

Six pages tucked into the sprawling 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act led to the creation of 8,764 of these tax havens across the U.S., ostensibly to lure private capital to poor neighborhoods. Anyone can invest capital gains from a previous investment in a building or business in a census tract designated as an OZ by a state’s governor, defer and reduce taxes on that initial gain, and then pay zero capital-gains tax on any profits from that OZ investment, provided that they stick with it for 10 years. Other than holding on to an appreciated asset until you bequeath it to your children, there aren’t many other ways to avoid capital-gains taxes altogether. This one has a huge advantage: “You don’t have to die,” says Brad Cohen, a Los Angeles tax lawyer.

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September 20, 2021 in Book Club, Tax, Tax News | Permalink

Friday, September 10, 2021

Podcast: The History Of Female Law Professors With Patricia Cain

I previously blogged the release of the new book, Herma Hill Kay, Paving the Way: The First American Women Law Professors (Patricia A. Cain (Santa Clara), ed. University of California Press 2021). 

Paving The WayCheck out the podcast, The History Of Female Law Professors With Patricia Cain (27 minutes)

Kathryn interviews Patricia Cain, one of the authors of Paving the Way, about the twists and turns of her life and career: from going to law school, being part of a circus troupe to starting a career in the legal academia. Patricia highlights her experiences not only as a teacher but also her experiences in law school. She also shared the best lessons she learned, especially for those who want to start a life in legal academia.

Episode Highlights

  • Introducing the guest: Patricia Cain. - 0:38
  • The reasons why Patricia decided to go to law school. - 1:24
  • The twists and turns: How she went from law school, a theater member, to being a teacher. - 4:20
  • Patricia’s involvement in the Paving the Way book project. - 9:14
  • A shift from being introduced to Herma Hill Kay to continue writing the book. - 12:08
  • Linking histories: Knowing the difference of the process back in the ’70s to her experience. - 17:16
  • It wasn’t until other women joined the faculty that Ellen Peter’s voice could be heard during faculty meetings. When you’re the one woman in the room, you say something and nobody says anything back then 5 minutes later a man says the same thing and everybody thinks it’s brilliant. I experience that every time. - 18:57
  • The adoption process. - 21:17
  • The best lessons that people who want to start a life in academia can take away. - 23:46

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September 10, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, September 5, 2021

NY Times: Why A Duke Professor With Stage IV Colon Cancer Will Not Make A Bucket List Before She Dies

Following up on my previous post, I Just Learned I Only Have Months To Live. This Is What I Want To Say.:  New York Times op-ed:  One Thing I Don’t Plan to Do Before I Die Is Make a Bucket List, by Kate Bowler (Duke Divinity School):

BowlerI wish someone had told me that the end of a life is a mathematical equation.

At 35, the doctors tell me I have Stage IV colon cancer and a slim chance of survival.

Suddenly years dwindle into months, months into days, and I begin to count them. All my dreams, ambitions, friendships, petty fights, vacations and bedtimes with a boy in dinosaur pajamas must be squeezed into a finite and dwindling number of hours, minutes, seconds.

My precarious diagnosis triggers a series of mental health assessments at the cancer clinic during which lovely and well-meaning counselors, all seemingly named Caitlin, are telling me to “find my meaning.” They wonder if I should consider making a “bucket list,” as many other patients have found the process to be clarifying. ...

It had not occurred to me, until now, that life’s wide road narrows to a dot on the horizon. I enjoyed the somedays I learned to conjure as a spectacularly unpopular child with a useful imagination. For several summers, I dreamed up a life on a farm on Prince Edward Island to attend a country school with Anne of Green Gables and her kindred spirits. ...

I did not understand that one future comes at the exclusion of all others.

Everybody pretends that you die only once. But that’s not true. You can die a thousand possible futures in the course of a single, stupid life.

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September 5, 2021 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Asserting Our American Christian And Classical Heritage: A Summer Of Reading On The Constitution

Matthew G. Andersson (B.A. Texas; MBA Chicago), Asserting Our American Christian and Classical Heritage, A Summer of Reading on the Constitution:

Order in the new republic was impossible without law, but law impossible without morality, and morality was impossible without religion. For early American jurists and scholars, in an attitude quite foreign to us now, the common law was of “obligation indispensable” and of “origin divine.” Indeed, to one United States Supreme Court Associate Justice, Joseph Story, it was the duty of the American government to promote the Christian religion, to aid in the salvation of American citizens.
—Stephen Presser, Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus, Northwestern University School of Law

It is impossible for those who believe in the truth of Christianity as a Divine revelation, to doubt that it is the especial duty of government to foster and encourage it among all the citizens and subjects.
—Joseph Story, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, Dane Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States 260 (1840)

In the beautiful summer months of America, many of us make a stack of books that we meant to get to during the rest of the year. ...  [W]e have some peace and solitude, to read, contemplate, and enjoy some great books.  I’ve read several in the subjects of American constitutional law and history, and thought I would share with you, some of these books, and most importantly, what messages they contain about our great Nation, and the traditions we should be proud of, along with some challenges, and risks, that we will have to confront. ... 

Over this Summer I’ve read many books in law, as part of a larger law book project that I’ve undertaken. A few of these (out of dozens) have struck me as especially poignant, if inspirational (and a few cautionary) and I’d like to share some of them with you, in a brief discussion concerning the philosophical basis of our country, which in my view needs continuous refreshing and remembrance, but more, a continuous effort in understanding, and an effort that results in personal “ownership” of American principles that invite us to strive for higher order functioning among ourselves, independently, and as a group, seeking a more unitary, rather than divisive, culture. ...

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September 5, 2021 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Hamilton Reviews The Formation of Professional Identity: The Path From Student To Lawyer

Neil Hamilton (St. Thomas; Google Scholar), Book Review, 69 J. Legal Educ. 224 (2019) (reviewing Patrick Emery Longan (Mercer), Daisy Hurst Floyd (Mercer) & Timothy W. Floyd (Mercer), The Formation of Professional Identity: The Path from Student to Lawyer (2020)): 

Formation-of-professional-identityThe Formation of Professional Identity: The Path from Student to Lawyer provides much-needed concise and effective curriculum to address two closely related fundamental challenges for each law student and law school. The fundamental challenge for each law student is how to grow from being an aspiring entrantto-the-profession student to being a lawyer with adequate competency on the full array of capacities and skills that employers and clients want and need. The fundamental and complementary challenge for each law school—and for higher education for the professions generally—is how most effectively to foster each new student’s growth from being an aspiring-entrant student to being a licensed contributing member of the profession.

Starting more than twenty years ago, medical educators realized that emphasis on doctrinal medical knowledge and cognitive analytical skills, even when those skills are being applied in a clinical context, was insufficient to meet patient and population needs. Medical education has been moving toward more emphasis on patient-focused and teamwork centered medical care. 

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September 2, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Federal Tax Procedure (2021 Practitioner Edition)

John A. Townsend (Houston), Federal Tax Procedure (2021 Practitioner Ed.) (1,060 pages):

Federal Tax Procedure is a book originally prepared for a course on Tax Procedure taught by Adjunct Professor Townsend at the University of Houston School of Law (through the Fall of 2015). The book is updated annually in August. This is the 2021 edition. The book and related materials contain text discussion, relevant Code Section citations, and certain cases designed to encourage students to think about the Tax Procedure process. The book is in electronic format (Adobe Acrobat PDF format) and is in two versions: (1) a Student Edition (no footnotes); and (2) a Practitioner Edition (same as Student Edition but including footnotes). This is the Practitioner Edition. Both versions are available on Mr. Townsend's SSRN web page.

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August 31, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Practice And Procedure, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, August 29, 2021

NY Times: Why We Need To Start Talking About God

New York Times op-ed:  Why We Need to Start Talking About God, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (Christianity Today's 2018 Book of the Year) , :

Liturgy Of The OrdinaryKarl Barth, a 20th-century Swiss theologian, is credited with saying that Christians must live our lives with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Barth, who was a leader of a group of Christians in Germany resisting Hitler, understood that faith is not a pious, protective bubble shielding us from the urgent needs of the world. It is the very impetus that leads us into active engagement with society. People of faith must immerse ourselves in messy questions of how to live faithfully in a particular moment with particular headlines calling for particular attention and particular responses.

While Christians and other religious people may wonder how broader culture affects our faith (or why we must hold a newspaper in one hand), others may wonder why faith is relevant to the contemporary world at all (or why we hold a Bible in the other). Membership in a house of worship has declined steadily in the United States over the past eight decades and, according to a Gallup poll, dropped below 50 percent this year. ...

As a pastor, I see again and again that in defining moments of people’s lives — the birth of children, struggles in marriage, deep loss and disappointment, moral crossroads, facing death — they talk about God and the spiritual life. In these most tender moments, even those who aren’t sure what exactly they believe cannot avoid big questions of meaning: who we are, what we are here for, why we believe what we believe, why beauty and horror exist.

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August 29, 2021 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times: A More Secular America Is A Problem For Both Republicans And Democrats

New York Times op-ed:  A More Secular America Is Not Just a Problem for Republicans, by Ryan Burge (Baptist Pastor; Author, The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going (2021); and Assistant Professor of Political Science at Eastern Illinois University):

The Nones 2Since 1988, the General Social Survey has been asking Americans of different ages what they believe about God. For decades, the answer did not change much. Around 70 percent of members of the Silent Generation said that they “know God really exists” and “have no doubts about it.” That same sentiment was shared by about 63 percent of baby boomers and Generation Xers.

But in 2018, millennials expressed a lot less certainty. Only 44 percent had no doubts about the existence of God. Even more doubtful were members of Generation Z — just one-third claimed certain belief in God.

Today, scholars are finding that by almost any metric they use to measure religiosity, younger generations are much more secular than their parents or grandparents. In responses to survey questions, over 40 percent of the youngest Americans claim no religious affiliation, and just a quarter say they attend religious services weekly or more.

Americans have not come to terms with how this cultural shift will affect so many facets of society — and that’s no more apparent than when it comes to the future of the Republican and Democratic Parties.

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August 29, 2021 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Thursday, August 19, 2021

10 Summer Book Recommendations For Tax Attorneys

Law360, 10 Summer Book Recommendations For Tax Attorneys:

As practitioners monitor the latest developments in tax legislation on Capitol Hill or tax controversy in the courts, they may want to take a break at the beach or pool with a captivating book.

Here, Law360 recommends 10 books for tax practitioners' summer reading lists. ...

The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — and How We Can Fix It by Dorothy A. Brown

Whiteness of WealthIn The Whiteness of Wealth, Emory University tax law professor Dorothy Brown takes a deep dive into the racial biases that exist in the Internal Revenue Code and how they contribute to the growing wealth gap between Black and white Americans.

Francine J. Lipman, a law professor at the University of Nevada, said the book was a must-read for anyone interested in law, economics, finance or civil rights because it is a thoroughly researched explanation of historic and current racism in the federal tax system.

Brown's writing is engaging because she is a natural storyteller who recounts not only her family's story but the stories of many Black families who have been subject to excess taxation because of the color of their skin, Lipman said.

"The storytelling includes American history and seminal tax cases that evince white privilege and the federal institutions that supported and support our exploding racial wealth gap," she said. "Brown closes the book with proposals that include several constitutional law discussions that are critical to understand as America focuses on remedying past wrongs."

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August 19, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Escaping The Efficiency Trap—And Finding Some Peace Of Mind

Wall Street Journal Essay:  Escaping the Efficiency Trap—And Finding Some Peace Of Mind, by Oliver Burkeman (Author, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (2021)):

Four Thousand WeeksThe problem with trying to make time for everything that feels important is that you definitely never will. The reason isn’t that you haven’t yet discovered the right time management tricks or applied sufficient effort, or that you need to start getting up earlier, or that you’re generally useless. It’s that the underlying assumption is unwarranted: There’s no reason to believe you’ll ever feel “on top of things,” or make time for everything that matters, simply by getting more done.

That’s because if you succeed in fitting more in, you’ll find the goal posts start to shift: More things will begin to seem important, meaningful or obligatory. Acquire a reputation for doing your work at amazing speed, and you’ll be given more of it. Figure out how to spend enough time with your kids and at the office, so you don’t feel guilty about either, and you’ll suddenly feel some new social pressure: to spend more time exercising or to join the parent-teacher association—oh, and isn’t it finally time you learned to meditate? Get around to launching the side business you’ve dreamed of for years, and if it succeeds, it won’t be long before you’re no longer satisfied with keeping it small.

The general principle in operation here is what we might call the “efficiency trap.”

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August 14, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Morse Reviews Brown's The Whiteness Of Wealth

Susan Morse (Texas; Google Scholar), Tax and Race (JOTWELL) (reviewing Dorothy A. Brown (Emory), The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — And How We Can Fix It (2021)):

JOTWELL Tax (2021)Almost twenty-five years ago, Professor Dorothy Brown started writing law review articles (such as here, here and here) in which she applies critical race theory to tax law. This year, she published The Whiteness of Wealth, a book that not only claimed waves of popular and media attention but also provides a definitive statement of her longstanding scholarly project. The book offers a detailed case study of structural racism in law. It merits sustained attention from teachers and researchers, tax and otherwise.

Brown’s project has a descriptive component and a normative component. The descriptive component is based in cold logic, though made more accessible with stories from original interviews and from Brown’s family history. The logical equation is this: facially neutral tax law doctrine plus empirically different experiences based on race equals disparate impact that systematically favors white taxpayers and white wealth. In 2016, the median wealth of Black households was $17,100; of Latinx households, $20,600; of white households, $171,000. (P. 18.) Brown explains that tax law–not personal choice–explains a large part of this wide and persistent divide. She further argues that as a normative matter, equity and fairness require tax policy to reject rules that disadvantage “black families’ financial and social structures.” (P. 41.) ...

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August 11, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink