Man Without Qualities

Friday, April 02, 2004

Less Lessig

I really do want to like Stanford law professor Lawrence "Larry" Lessig. I'm serious. I really do. He has a great resume. He went to the University of Chicago, my absolutely favorite law school - and has taught there. He clerked for Richard Posner, one of my favorite federal circuit judges. Then he clerked for Antonin Scalia, one of my favorite Supreme Court justices ever. And Glenn Reynolds seems to love him - even to the point of making him a "guest blogger."

But the truth is I generally don't like Professor Lessig's thinking and writing at all. In fact, I find this FORBES article all too right:

I suspect the Mies van der Rohe estate won't sue me for saying it's clearer than ever that when it comes to copyright law, Lessig is Moron. Stanford law professor Lawrence "Larry" Lessig has lately been the Great Oz of copyright law, with student acolytes, members of the self-important blogosphere and Tin Woodmen of the press hanging on the latest droppings from his Palo Alto, Calif., Emerald City tower about the supposedly pernicious evils of today's copyright system.

The article is mean but worth reading in its entirety as a corrective to the blogosphere's irrational infatuation with this man. The predecessor article also makes many good points. And the two articles by no means catalogue every area in which Professor Lessig somehow manages to promise vastly more than he delivers. Just for starters: How could someone who knows Antonin Scalia even a bit think that he would buy any part of Professor Lessig's preposterous, ahistorical, contextless arguments in Eldred? And yet for a full year Lawrence Lessig padded about Justice Scalia's chambers! No intellectual fad seems too weightless or inconsequential to attract his attention and affection - to the point of supporting the gossamer and evanescent John Edwards.

For my tastes, Professor Lessig, with his intellectual arrogance and flakey theories, comes across as all too much the academic counterpart of the internet entrepreneurs of the late 1990's, with their commercial arrogance and flakey, profitless business plans, who met too many of their critics with the dismissive retort "they just don't get it."

In fact, now that I think of it, I wonder if the internet entrepreneurs got too much of "it" from him.

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