May 26, 2011
We Have Winners! - and a Paean to Law Librarians
Posted by Peter Conti-Brown

We have winners! I updated previously with a HT to Jason Zweig - it appears I'm not the only one who couldn't find the Keynes quote: it's probably apocryphal, though still uncontroversially true, depending one what one means by irrational.

The second is from the inimitable Erika Wayne, librarian at Stanford Law School, who has tracked down the original speech, from 1955. The good news is that, yes, Martin said something to this effect. The bad news is that he is quoting someone else, without attribution. The quote: "The Federal Reserve, as one writer put it, after the recent increase in the discount rate, is in the position of the chaperone who has ordered the punch bowl removed just when the party was really warming up." Now, who is that mysterious "one writer"? Did Martin mean to quote him the same way I quote anonymous authorities to my wife (e.g., "Well, as one famous moralist put it, he who does the laundry should have no hand in folding the laundry.")? A question for another day, perhaps, unless Erika is feeling even more adventurous. But we won't hold back on the promised reward: an enthusiastic e-high five to Erika!

The third is from my friend, the brilliant budding legal scholar and sociologist Jordan Segall. He tells me that "epistemological" only came into usage following its introduction by philosopher James Ferrier in the 19th century, well after Burke's demise. So do we have David Brooks to thank for this, then? The inconclusiveness here does mean, sadly, that Jordan does not get his reward, at least not yet. That's right - this e-high five is still up for grabs. 

By the way, I've turned on comments now, which will hopefully facilitate participation from people who can't walk over to my cubicle to answer my questions, although Jason, extra kudos for persevering beyond the comment block that I had inadvertently left in place.

Last of all, I cannot restrain myself from praising our extraordinary librarians at Stanford Law School. I have a bucketful of examples of their extraordinary sleuthing (the Martin speech is only the latest), one of which includes going through repeated FOIA requests and appeals, losing each one, and then still securing the key document from an 80 year old researcher who had it in his own files in some barn in Vermont, or something like that. I only know SLS, so if you have other examples of librarian sleuthing that made your research possible, I'd love to hear them, as I think they are the sometimes too-well-kept secret of the academy. After all, an eminent legal authority -- I think it was Ronald Coase, but it may have been Moses himself -- once said that every great scholar needs a good tailor, a good priest, and a good librarian. I have no experience with the first two, but can vouch emphatically for the third.

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