Academic Moneyball

by Henry Farrell on March 1, 2006

“David Bernstein”: quotes from a _National Review_ article on GMU law school:

bq. “If the market discriminates against conservatives, then there should be good opportunities for hiring conservatives,” says [current Dean Daniel] Polsby. This is exactly the sort of observation one would expect a market-savvy law-and-economics scholar to make. Manne and his successors were able to act on this theory, and though Mason has in recent years expanded its recruitment of non-economics specialists [in part because law and economics scholars have gone from undervalued in the market when Manne was dean to a highly desired commodity], it has stuck by the core observation that law schools routinely overlook raw talent. Associate professor Craig Lerner, for instance, studied under the political theorist Allan Bloom at the University of Chicago and worked for Kenneth Starr on the Whitewater investigation. Listing either of these experiences on a résumé might easily turn off a hiring committee dominated by liberals, which is to say a hiring committee at just about every other law school. And so Lerner turns out to be exactly the type of candidate that attracts GMU. “Have you read Moneyball?” asks Todd Zywicki, another one of Mason’s bright young profs, in reference to the best-selling book by Michael Lewis on how the Oakland Athletics franchise assembled playoff-caliber teams on a limited budget. “We’re the Oakland A’s of the law-school world.”

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Linda Smith is Dead

by Harry on March 1, 2006

Linda Smith is dead.

I saw her only once, when she was unkown, as the cabaret act at a Socialist Outlook conference in the 1980’s. A small and intimate setting and she was simply one of the funniest people I’d ever seen in my life. I couldn’t believe it when I subsequently saw her on afternoon TV some 10 years later. She was terrific on The News Quiz, especially, for some reason, when Alan Coren was on too. Only, in my opinion, A Brief History of Time Wasting was not so good, but even that I’m pleased to have a bunch of tapes of. A nice tribute by Jeremy Hardy here. Obit here.

Wikipedia and sausages

by John Q on March 1, 2006

Sometime in the next couple of days, the one-millionth article will be added to the English-language version of Wikipedia. It’s an impressive achievement for a project that’s only five years old , and it’s already clear that Wikipedia has surpassed its main competitors, Encyclopedia Britannica and Microsoft’s Encarta in many important respects. Neither Britannica’s 200-year history and expert staff nor the Microsoft juggernaut have proved a match for Wikipedia’s ten thousand or so regular contributors, and thousands of occasional helpers. While many criticisms of Wikipedia have been made (as with most things, the most comprehensive source for such criticisms is Wikipedia, none has really dented either Wikipedia’s credibility or its growth.

Still, as Bismarck is supposed to have said

If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.”

The process by which Wikipedia entries are produced is, in many cases, far from edifying: the marvel, as with democracies and markets, is that the outcomes are as good as they are.

I’ve been active on Wikipedia for several months now, and had some interesting experiences.

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