Posner's Symphony No. 3: Thinking About the Unthinkable (with John Donohue), 39 Stanford Law Review 791 (1987)
In the 100th year following the death of Franz Liszt, Richard Posner has published the third edition of his own classic work, The Economic Analysis of Law. This coincidence is in some sense fitting, for, in many respects, what Liszt was to the piano and musical composition, Posner is to legal scholarship and public policy. Just as Liszt was the dominant figure in the creation of the modem pianist, Posner has presided over the rise of law and economics in the domain of legal scholarship. Just as everyone concedes that Liszt demonstrated immense talent in performing his own and others' music, no one disputes Posner's abilities as an outstanding scholar and expositor of his own and others' economic analyses of legal issues.
But both Liszt and Posner have heard some dissent amidst the applause. Some music critics claim that, despite his technical brilliance, Liszt's obsession with virtuosity led him astray at times. Liszt's flashiness exceeded the bounds of the aesthetically pleasing, becoming at times unpleasant or even unlistenable. Even his most ardent supporters agree that a number of Liszt's compositions are marred by unevenness, superficiality, or barren virtuosic ornamentation and would best be forgotten. At times Posner is also guilty of such lapses or excesses. His third edition provides ample new material to test this view: Posner has added more than twenty-five sections and 150 pages of new material to the work.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Ayres, Ian and Donohue, John J. III, "Posner's Symphony No. 3: Thinking About the Unthinkable" (1987). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 1550.