Category Archives: Blog Posts

Op-ed: Tribal Housing Funding a Critical Component of Build Back Better

_DSC0604Op-ed: Sonya Acosta, Tribal Housing Funding a Critical Component of Build Back Better, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Off the Charts Blog (Dec. 9, 2021).

[Venting post] Legal Scholarship and (False) Claims of Originality

There is nothing new about what I am about to write, I just need to vent. But it is important to acknowledge when ideas are not original or at least not new. My need to vent comes from reading far too many articles, esp. article introductions, that stake out a position that the article is making a novel contribution and discussing/identifying/exploring an area that has not been covered by others before. This seems to be particularly a specialty of junior scholars at top law schools, but examples of such broad, “look at me,” claims can be found throughout the legal literature. Indeed, a sub-category of this genre consists of articles written by the same scholar who wrote the leading works on exactly the topic that is supposedly being presented for the first time in a later article. (Once, when I was asked to review a star scholars work, I read more than a dozen articles by the same scholar, none of which acknowledged previous work and most of which contain a large amount of self-plagiarism.)

I probably should not be venting or annoyed by this but I recently finished reading (“for fun”) Rhodes’ excellent book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which shows just how different norms can be. Among the scientists described in that book, if someone were to simply repeat an earlier discovery or claim that had been previously been made by another scientist, they would be shamed and/or laughed out of the room. The progress in scientific understanding (and horrors) described in the book depended on acknowledging and building on the works of others. That seems foreign to legal scholarship, where law review editors prize claims of novelty and lack a long view of scholarship. It also though says something about both the authors and readers of such “novel” works that fail to acknowledge the work of others or that treat it dismissively.

We in the legal academy are arguably becoming immunized against such grandiose claims of originality and treat is as just part of the game, of how one gets a good article placement. And perhaps for some writers it is inadvertent. Looking just at citation practices, it does appear that the more elite authors tend to only really read other elite authors… so if it hasn’t been said before by someone at a T14 school, has it even been said before?

There is a risk that this post will come off as either too superior or as too annoyed, after all we all fail to cite all those we should in our work and cannot be expected to keep up with everything possibly related to big topics we chose to write about. But I think we ought to be annoyed with such false claims of originality. They mislead the audience, they fail to acknowledge the contributions of others that lead to what is new, and, for lack of better words, they are just annoyingly arrogant. That said, civility also matters and perhaps explains why only rarely do such false claims get called out. I’m not going to name names so to speak because (a) it is unclear what the purpose of providing names would be and (b) many of the “novel” claims are pushing valuable things even if they are a little too desperately seeking attention.

But I do feel bad for the authors and scholars slighted by such falsely grand claims, for those who have done great work but find it either ignored or treated dismissively in the footnotes even though they made essentially the same claims. This post was “triggered” by my annoyance for a friend, someone whose work truly did push the needle and ball. Part of me hopes she never stumbles on the new scholarship that proudly asserts its novelty. But my friend is a good scholar and not at a leading law school so I bet she does come across such work. But the choice to let such claims of novelty slide because that is how the game is played is not without pain and certainly results in the same ground being plowed more times than it should.

Recent LPE Blog Entries of Note

Recent LPE Blog Entries of Note:

Op-ed: TANF Policies Reflect Racist Legacy of Cash Assistance

Op-ed (not sure how to classify it, between an op-ed and a report): Ife Floyd et al., TANF Policies Reflect Racist Legacy of Cash Assistance, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Aug. 4, 2021.

New Article: We the People Must Pull America Back from the Abyss of Economic Injustice

Francine J. Lipman, We the People Must Pull America Back from the Abyss of Economic Injustice, ABA (last visited Apr. 27, 2021). Except below:

Americans have long suffered decades of increasing income and wealth disparity resulting from failed economic policies and systemic racial discrimination. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed and exacerbated the depth and breadth of these gaps. The juxtaposition of 67 million Americans losing their jobs, 27 million adults and their kids suffering food insecurity, and 14 million households behind on their rent with 651 billionaires adding $1 trillion in net worth to their already bloated balance sheets is immoral. The percentage of food-insecure families with children is approaching 20 percent of the U.S. population, and these numbers are  almost double for families of color. Because of institutional racism, Black Americans have been hospitalized and died from COVID-19 at five times the rate of white Americans. Indigenous and Latinx individuals also suffer disproportionately from COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. Put simply, we the people have reached a critical crossroads, and we must take action to change the course of our country.

News Report: “The Reality of Surviving on Food Stamps During a Pandemic – Online”

News coverage / op-ed: Ruth Priscilla Kirstein, The Reality of Surviving on Food Stamps During a Pandemic – Online, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Blog-iE, Feb. 26, 2021. [the author’s twitter contact is @PetrouchkaNYC]

[Let me add for law students or others looking for topics, I think this is a good topic to explore even more from a law angle. Source of income discrimination with regards to housing vouchers has gotten some attention, but as this op-ed shows, the nature of funding is also an issue in other social welfare programs.]

Transcribed Conversation: 5 Ways the Biden Administration Can Help Rural America Thrive

Transcribed Conversation: 5 Ways the Biden Administration Can Help Rural America Thrive, Spotlight on Poverty & Opportunity, Feb. 17, 2021.

[Self-promotion] New Blog Post: Creating Space for Property’s Foes

DaganThe LPE Blog is doing a blog symposium on Hanoch Dagan’s new book, A Liberal Theory of Property. For reasons I discuss in my post, I appreciated his emphasis throughout the book on nonowners and think it is a book worth reading for people in the property theory space. For those interested in property theory, the whole symposium can be found here. Rashmi Dyal-Chand and Lua Yuille‘s posts are the others that most relate to poverty issues. 

Blog Post: “Four reasons why more public housing isn’t the solution to affordability concerns”

Blog Post: Jenny Schuetz, “Four reasons why more public housing isn’t the solution to affordability concerns,” Brookings, Jan. 14, 2021. 

New Jotwell Review: Visibly Fragile America

New Jotwell Review: Marc-Tizoc González, Visibly Fragile America, JOTWELL (January 4, 2021) (reviewing Etienne C. Toussaint, Of American Fragility: Public Rituals, Human Rights, and The End of Invisible Man, 52 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. __ (forthcoming, 2021)).