NEWS

  /  

November 8, 2008

Richard Epstein sips the haterade

Given the run on newspapers across the country Wednesday, we were hoping something similar would unfold Friday with the Maroon, the morning after the earth-shattering announcement that the GSB was changing its name to "The University of Chicago Booth School of Business." Surely, the lines would be snaking around the block at Ida Noyes, when the delivery rental car arrived with the coveted papers. By the end of the day, we'd be printing extra copies and readers would scramble for the issue on eBay.None of that happened, and there are still copies of the Maroon available most everywhere. Apparently the allure of seeing photos of administrators wearing goofy sweatshirts and drinking champagne is not so strong. But if you haven't picked up a copy yet, you absolutely must, to read this feature, in which University faculty and former Law students reflect on the election of Barack Obama to the office of "Decider."Most of the distinguished persons interviewed spoke briefly about how nice it is that they actually know the president-elect, and how he's a smart guy who likes basketball, and thinking things through.And then there's Richard Epstein.Epstein, who previously vented to the New York Times about The One's failure to befriend him, once again turns into Debbie Downer, comparing Obama to Woodrow Wilson, and making a snide remark about how Obama "became too successful to teach here." Oh!Here it is:

CM: While Senator Obama was a senior lecturer at the law school, and not a full professor, he is still the first president since Woodrow Wilson, who was a professor and eventually president of Princeton, to have a long-standing affiliation with a university. How important is that academic experience? Richard Epstein: Wilson was an extremely important intellectual figure before he became governor of NJ. Obama was a part-time teacher; he was not a professor in terms of having an academic output. He was a tremendously gifted teacher, but he was a man who was not a full-time academic. In the end he became too successful to teach here—I wonder why. Wilson had some good practical skills, but the problem with Wilson was with the administration. He re-segregated public service; he was a large and powerful progressive. He was able to drive all corporations out of NJ by imposing a tremendous tax on them. He wasn’t a successful politician because he didn’t understand they way that people respond to initiatives. He thought you could just tax them and that they would stay. Instead, they went across to DE, which has repercussions to this very day. I hope Obama doesn’t make the same mistakes. He thinks you can impose taxes and achieve redistribution of wealth, and doesn’t look at alternative strategies people might employ. There’s a great deal of similarity. Obama comes from academic experience on one issue, which is the race question, on which he’s very astute. But that’s 10th on the list of issues he needs to deal with. With all of those issues, the more you know about them, the less confident you are.