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Saturday, June 15, 2024


Any present or former journalist, or anyone who has written an op-ed or essay for a general interest publication, knows that editors are keen on compelling openings that suggest to the reader the immense importance of the topic. (Law reviews increasingly demand the same, for roughly the same reason: the authors are trying to captivate student editors who are a short step above being general readers themselves.)

It’s an understandable practice. But it carries with it tremendous temptations to exaggerate, mythologize, or pay implicit tribute to Harry Frankfurt. So we come to the first paragraph of this essay in the online spaces of the midbrow conservative “public intellectual” publication City Journal. I have to wonder: Does anyone really think that anything in this paragraph after the first six words is true? Does the author, a law school graduate, really think so? I just can't see how.   

Hardly anyone reads law review articles, but those who do are among the most influential readers in the country. Supreme Court justices and federal and state judges rely on academic theories to decide important cases and to set the legal doctrines that shape American life. Professors shape their students’ worldviews by assigning articles appearing in prestigious journals to show that they are authoritative—the law equivalent of peer-reviewed. Though these journals are student-run and -edited, they often legitimize the ideas that become law and common knowledge.

Posted by Paul Horwitz on June 15, 2024 at 11:12 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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