December 24, 2011
Remembering Larry
Posted by Erik Gerding

Here are a few more thoughts after learning about the loss of Larry Ribstein.

Larry could write faster than I could think, and write damn well too.  Once, in a debate of over coffee on Citizens United, Larry told me that had I read his writings on the topic and I would have see why I was wrong.  I responded that if I devoted all my time to reading his output, I wouldn’t have any time to write myself.  There was no shame being outmatched by Larry in an argument.  There was always a danger of being preempted.  If I thought of writing something, chances were Larry had already published multiple times on the same topic (and had two more drafts on ssrn that year).

Larry also showed that being analytically rigorous did not prevent one from being intellectually generous. I met Larry at one of the first conferences I attended and the first where I presented.  I was nervous as hell and did not know anyone.  When I went back to my hotel room to unwind, I received an e-mail from Larry out of the blue.  He apologized that he missed my presentation and asked if he could look at a draft.  I had been reading his work when I was still in practice.  Why would a senior scholar of his stature care about someone with no reputation who was just starting out?  After seeing other tributes to Larry, I realize that he supported a lot of young scholars – even when they didn’t share his strong viewpoints.

And his viewpoints were strong.  He was a powerful advocate for the power of free markets.  He defended his ideas even in areas in which the political winds blew gale force the opposite way.  Even when (and perhaps particularly if) you disagreed with him, he did you a profound favor.  He forced you to hone and clarify your arguments.  The label of “ideological” is often used pejoratively and casually to dismiss arguments.  But Larry was ideological in a truer sense.  He was committed to rigorously and systematically working out ideas, ideals, and their consequences.  

Larry’s contribution to the academy far exceeded even his large body of scholarship.  I miss him.


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