Saturday, November 12, 2011

Law and Econ Project, Update V

Almost one month since the previous update, and less than a month to go before the due date of what I now will call the polished draft of my Law and Econ manuscript. Uh oh.

My plan from one month ago involved rewriting the Preface, and printing out and binding an entire working draft. These tasks have been completed. Note, however, that I have cannily omitted mentioning another part of the plan, which was to draft a section of conclusions -- no progress there, as you might suspect from my attempt to censor discussion.

I also planned to finish reading Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life, by Nicholas Phillipson (2010) -- more failure. But I now have completed 213 of 284 pages of text, and I am keeping up with the endnotes as I go along. So I still have hopes of finishing this book, from which I am learning quite a bit. My other goal was to make some progress on reading This is Your Country on Drugs, by Ryan Grim (2010), and little has been achieved in this regard: I have read 32 of 252 pages. Hmmm. For December 11, let me toss one more book into the pile, The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, by William J. Stuntz (2011). (Wow, in providing the Amazon link I read a review, which indicates that the author of this recently-published book has passed away. I hadn't heard this sad news before, though now I see that one of the blurbs on the back cover refers to the author's work in the past tense. Sad news indeed.) I have assigned one chapter of the Stuntz book to my Law and Econ class, too.

So what is left, writing-wise, for December 11? A full revision of the L&E manuscript, along with the preparation of the conclusions. Earlier I thought I might print out and bind an intermediate version before December 11, but now I am not so sure. Aiming for that polished draft, though....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Law and Econ Project, Update IV

Today's update is approximately two weeks late. This makes me question how effective a commitment device nDrafts is. Nonetheless, I will persevere.

At least some progress has been made in the last three weeks. I finished reading two books that I had committed to finishing, We Have Met the Enemy by Daniel Akst (2011), and American Property by Stuart Banner (2011). I assigned Banner's chapter on owning life (including body parts, corpses, and segments of the human genome) to my Law and Econ class; I think it offers a nice case study, of sorts, of how property rights regimes can respond to changes in costs and benefits.

As for my plans for my Law and Econ manuscript, I intended to digitize the edits to Chapter 5 -- done! (I have suffered a major computer breakdown, so I take more pride than usual at meeting this minimal goal.) The other goal was to send out a few chapters to canny (potential) readers for comment. Here, well, limited success. I am glad that I did send Chapter One to one very canny potential reader, but more chapters and maybe an additional reader or two might have been a good idea.

My commitment for the next update is to rewrite the Preface, merging in the Nabokov material (one day I will explain!) that currently resides in Chapter 2. I also would like to make a go at a Conclusions section -- these tend to present a roadblock for me. Most importantly, I want to print out (and maybe bind) the entire manuscript in its current form. After that, I will take a few weeks to produce (and print and bind) a revised draft, with yet one more (and final?) draft, as the nDrafts reader knows, being slated for printing and binding on December 11.

Two other books have been lingering in my "to read soon" pile. One is This is Your Country on Drugs, by Ryan Grim (2010), and I will renew my intention and aim to make some progress this week. The second is Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life, by Nicholas Phillipson (2010); I have read the first 100 pages of this great book, and hope to finish it in the next week or two.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Law and Econ Project, Update III

Back in Chicago again, after a trip that included the stimulating vice symposium. Have to revise the vice paper in the next few months, but it is not yet pressing. Time to see how I did with my last plan, and to plan afresh.

I had a few goals in mind (and on blog) for the vice symposium. I was supposed to read the five other papers for the symposium, and I read 4.5 of them. They contained a good deal of philosophy and law that was outside my ken, but they were fun reads and I learned a lot. I was supposed to read Legalising Drugs by Philip Bean (2010), and I managed to do that. I found the book to be disappointing, though I appreciated the extensive information about drug-related crime and prostitution. The book has a tendency, I think, to cite rather uninspiring legalization advocates (though the steady Transform receives a lot of attention), and to hold their shortcomings against legalization regimes in general. The problem of how to maintain a post-legalization ban on sales to minors is conducted as if alcohol and tobacco don't already face that problem, and as if it represents a near-fatal inconsistency in legalization programs. The bar for legalization seems to be set too high, where it cannot be experimented with unless it is known in advance that it will be an improvement on prohibition. Legalising Drugs did make me think that my paper and related efforts have value, however, because they can allay some of the fears that permeate Bean's book.

I also was supposed to read We Have Met the Enemy by Daniel Akst (2011). I didn't do this, but I have made it to page 224 (out of 278), so I hope to complete it soon. The book is full of interesting information on self-control, though at this point, it doesn't quite come together for me. Sort of less than the sum of its parts. Still, I am enjoying it. I mentioned the possibility of reading This is Your Country on Drugs, by Ryan Grim (2010), but this book still lies in the future for me.

On Law and Econ, I had modest goals, but failed to meet them. I wanted to "convert the hard-copy changes for Chapters 4 and 5 to e-format." I managed to do this for Chapter 4 -- and to write a brief new section on John Stuart Mill -- but have only begun on Chapter 5. So completing the Chapter 5 edits is my first L&E goal for the coming week. Other goals include sending out drafts of some chapters to a few unlucky individuals. (I already distributed earlier drafts of Chapters one and two to a few folks.) I must get the syllabus together for my L&E class, too. I'll try to check back in to nDrafts in eight days or so, after I have taught the first week of L&E.

A neglected earlier L&E goal was to read American Property, by Stuart Banner. I will revive that goal at this point; so far, I am to page 204 of 291. Following Banner, I hope to read Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life, by Nicholas Phillipson; this is both out of general interest and to help with my teaching of Smith this quarter.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Law and Econ Update II -- Mostly Vice

Back from the trip, where Law and Econ was not a priority. I did manage to finish reading the (excellent) book about Friedrich Engels, Marx's General, by Tristram Hunt, as hoped, and did make some hard-copy revisions to Chapters 4 and 5 of the Law and Econ project.

Next week I have the vice symposium that sparked the Five Drafts project. So, once again, Law and Econ will take a back seat, though I do want to convert the hard-copy changes for Chapters 4 and 5 to e-format. For the vice symposium, I would like to read the five other papers that will be presented, as well as a book or two. The two books that I will commit (?) to reading are Legalising Drugs by Philip Bean (2010) and We Have Met the Enemy by Daniel Akst (2011). The Bean book takes a prohibitionist stance to drugs -- a stance I do not share -- so I am hoping that it will sharpen my thinking (change my mind??); the Akst book is about self-c0ntrol, a topic that is central to my vice work. The Akst book is significantly longer than the short Bean volume, but it is written in an engaging manner that should ease any pain from excessive reading. A third book, one that I am unlikely to get to before the symposium, alas, but hope to read soon, is This is Your Country on Drugs, by Ryan Grim (2010).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Law and Econ Update

Heading to the airport presently, but updating nDrafts is a priority. I did indeed complete this round of revisions for Chapters 2 and 3; even managed to continue to tinker with the wealth maximization stuff in Chapter 1. None of them are in final form, alas. As for reading, I was aiming to get to page (.6*291= about) 175 of the Banner book on property law. Here, less successful, though I am 56% of the way through, at page 164.

My reading during my trip will not be focused on the Law and Econ project. I will try to read Marx's General by Tristram Hunt; I teach some Marx in the fall, and this book is about Friedrich Engels. In an effort not to neglect L&E too much, however, I also intend to make some revisions on the hard copies of Chapters 4 and 5.

Hope to check back in in about 9 days...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Inauspicious Start

My goals for the past week were to make revisions to Chapter 2 and to prepare revisions for Chapter 3; plus, I hoped to make it halfway through American Property, by Stuart Banner. Things didn't quite work out as intended.

I have prepared but not finished making (that is, entering into the computer) revisions of Chapter 2; I did not look at Chapter 3. The Banner book is 291 pages of normal text, followed by many pages of notes, which I keep up with as I read the text. So to be halfway through, I would have to have read about 146 pages of the text. In truth, I have finished but 104 pages, about 35% done. So my plans were under-fulfilled for both reading and writing.

The good news is that I wrote a couple of short pieces on vice policy -- one on drugs, one on casino gambling. Not sure either of them will ever see the light of day, but I can derive a sense of accomplishment from such minor victories. I also returned to Chapter 1 and changed the Kaldor-Hicks material -- eliminating the use of the Kaldor-Hicks terminology -- and added a short section on willingness-to-pay. The Banner book also contributed to Chapter 1, in discussing the development of the law of takings. Specifically, when does the government have to pay compensation for a regulation that reduces the value of privately owned property? Banner gives a nice historical discussion of how this law developed.

At the end of the week I will be heading out of town, and will be beyond work for a week or so. I will try to check into nDrafts on Friday, then. What do I hope to have accomplished by then? Uh, how about finish entering those revisions to Chapter 2, plus make the Chapter 3 revisions? I'll aim to have 60% of the Banner book behind me at that point, too -- I already am scaling back my ambitions.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Reading this Week

I eventually used the Five Drafts project to commit to reading as well as to writing, and I will try to extend that feature to nDrafts, too. For this week, my Law and Econ reading goal is to get at least halfway into American Property, by Stuart Banner (Harvard University Press, 2011). I have some other academic reading that is not related to the Law and Econ Work in Progress, but I am not ready to commit to that just yet.

The Law and Economics Project

The project that I would like to make serious progress on during the rest of 2011 involves a book manuscript concerning Law and Economics. Five chapters (out of an envisioned, er, five chapters (plus preface and conclusions and other extraneous(?) material)) already exist in rough draft form. My goal is to revise and improve these chapters, create the related non-chapterial material, and mold the whole thing into a sleek, coherent, publishable book. Or at least to develop a complete manuscript that is not too embarrassing.

OK, maybe I will invoke a deadline or two, in the spirit of the nDraft commitment device. December 11, 2011: by that date I would like to have a complete, new and improved draft of the Law and Econ book. Notice that I do not yet have a title, or at least one I am willing to publicize -- OK, I'll have to come up with a title by December 11, too. In honor of James Joyce, perhaps the draft manuscript for the time being will go by the name fragments from Work in Progress.

During the upcoming week, I want to make revisions to Chapter Two, and begin to revise Chapter Three. "Making" revisions entails entering the changes into the e-copy, not just producing comments on a hard copy.

Inaugural Post (August 14, 2011)

Eight months before a symposium paper was due, I set up a blog, Five Drafts, to establish a schedule for producing, well, five drafts of the paper. The idea was that the loose public commitment to meet the self-imposed intermediate deadlines -- and later, to update the blog with regular progress reports, in between drafts -- would help me overcome procrastination and would spur effort. To some extent, the Five Drafts experiment worked. My hope is that nDrafts will successfully adopt the commitment-via-blog technique to other academic projects. My fear is that nDrafts will instead demonstrate a virtual Peter Principle, where a successful idea is promoted to the point that it will no longer be viable. But here we go...