Saturday, October 23, 2010

Richard Epstein

Thanks to a friend on the law school faculty I was able to attend Thursday's lunch presentation at the law school by Richard Epstein as a guest. I read Epstein's Takings early on in graduate school and it had a big effect on my thinking about constitutional law and about the relationship between law and liberty more generally. Reading classical liberal legal theorists is an excellent complement to reading economics. They think about things differently and often in ways that add depth and insight to simple economic models.

Epstein spoke about a new book he is writing on constitutional interpretation. The bits I found most interesting were his contrast between libertarian and classical liberal views on legal theory. The parts that were most entertaining were his denunciations of various supreme court decisions he doesn't like. The best line of the hour was "I'm not crazy. I'm just controversial."

Even relative to other law professors, who as a group are very good at speaking without notes, Epstein's ability to construct well organized verbal arguments on the fly is impressive. Back in the day, when Dora Costa and I were running the U of Chicago student libertarian group, we had Epstein come and give a talk. He gave us a topic in advance. When he arrived, he asked how long he had to talk. We told him, and he gave a marvelous, well-organized, no notes lecture of *exactly* that duration. Those same skills were on display on Thursday.

I also learned that the law school has Zingerman's cater their lunches. Clearly, I need to be spending more time over there. All other seminar lunches will now pale by comparison (other than, perhaps, the ones I construct myself from goodies purchased at Morgan and York).

No comments: