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Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Random Thought re: Immigration Policy

I have a confession. 

Every now and then I check out The Spine, the TNR blog of Marty Peretz, for whom I spent two glorious summers house-sitting back in 1994 and 1995. That's not the confession though. Really.

Marty, I don't think I ever told you this, but somehow, under circumstances I can no longer recall precisely, I broke the ceramic lid on your toilet. I am pretty certain it was an accident. Sorry. I hope I've repaired the harm by naming Ben-Ben in part after our mutual friend to whom you introduced me. 

More generally, Marty, I remain grateful for your kindnesses, but as we both know, a pupil can't remain a pupil forever. And so, I have another confession.

 The other day you described a recent (and characteristically spiffy) dinner party at your house, with guests including famed prawfy couple Samantha Power and Cass Sunstein. (They were there for a screening of a new movie, Sergio, connected to Samantha's book on Sergio Vieira de Mello). You said that you learned over the course of the evening that Cass Sunstein is "the first son of the first son of the first son of the first son ... of the first son of the Gaon of Vilna, which means that Samantha’s son is also in this learned line."  

For those of you who are "yichus" followers, and not just yichus generators, this is a pretty big deal, or at least, a startling coincidence. But I confess that my reaction to reading that was one of concern, especially in these days of rage. To translate the concern roughly into law reviewese: 

Cf. Robert Nozick (z'l), The Examined Life: Philosophical Meditations (yichus or not, "we are all immigrants in the world of thought").

Posted by Administrators on May 2, 2010 at 10:35 PM in Blogging | Permalink


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What I find most amazing about this post is that Samantha Power and Cass Sunstein accepted an invitation to dine with Marty Peretz. (Eric Alterman, please note, if you haven't already.)

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | May 3, 2010 7:17:55 AM

New Anon: It's Dan's allusion or metaphor, playing off Nozick about the attribution of genius to lineage.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | May 3, 2010 2:09:47 AM

and how is this related to immigration policy?

Posted by: new anon | May 3, 2010 12:39:32 AM

Oops, sorry for being obscure Matt. The Anon comment captures the point I was making inchoately.

Posted by: Dan Markel | May 3, 2010 12:06:01 AM

The point, I think, is that "lineage" in the form of Cass Sunstein or anyone else being the descendant of a famous scholar ought not to be valued much as a "learned line", since, per Nozick's observation, one's intellectual achievements are substantially one's own making and not a bequest that can be handed down.

Posted by: anon | May 3, 2010 12:04:16 AM

I guess I'm simple, but I don't get it. Can you explain a bit more?

Posted by: Matt | May 2, 2010 11:03:49 PM

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