Recent Publications

Harvard Law Review, March 2009 | Go to article overview

Recent Publications


CITY BOUND: HOW STATES STIFLE URBAN INNOVATION. By Gerald E. Frug & David J. Barron. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. 2008. Pp. xvii, 260. $35.00. It is conventional wisdom that democratic governments are responsive to pressures from their citizens. However, in City Bound, an exciting exploration of metropolitan government, Professors Gerald Frug and David Barron emphasize that "local government law"--the state legal structures that create and empower local governments--influences the policies and actions of city government at least as much as a city's socioeconomic and democratic forces. The authors emphasize that there are many different conceptions of what a city should look like and the types of policies it should pursue, and that local government law makes it significantly easier for city governments to advance certain agendas rather than others. Focusing on four potential conceptions of cities, Professors Frug and Barron describe how local government law makes it far easier for cities to pursue a global or tourist city agenda than a middle class or regional city agenda. They argue that much of local government law is based on a mistrust of local decisionmaking. In order to ensure the continued vibrancy of American cities, we must fundamentally rethink local government law to allow cities to take the lead in planning their own futures.

THE COMMON LAW IN COLONIAL AMERICA, VOLUME I: THE CHESAPEAKE AND NEW ENGLAND, 1607-1660. By William E. Nelson. New York: Oxford University Press. 2008. Pp. ix, 198. $35.00. In this, the first of four studies of the early legal culture of the American colonies, Professor William Nelson proposes to supplement the traditional focus on common law reception with comparisons among the colonies' distinct legal systems. Professor Nelson emphasizes that the different people who founded each of the colonies shaped the legal systems that they created. Virginia's economy and the profit-seeking motives of its early settlers produced a hierarchical legal system aimed at encouraging investment and extracting labor from servants. Maryland's Catholic founders adopted the common law quickly in order encourage religious tolerance. New England colonists' attempt to create a "Puritan utopia" (p. 49) created a less coercive set of laws intended to restrain the discretion of magistrates and protect local autonomy. These diverse early legal regimes gradually converged based on rule-of-law values, and despite some persistent differences, by 1660 the New England and Chesapeake colonies "shared a common commitment to govern under the rule of law and to extract governing law from their English legal heritage" (p. 129). Professor Nelson's study is a thoroughly researched and innovative approach to an important period in American legal history.

THE CRIME OF REASON: AND THE CLOSING OF THE SCIENTIFIC MIND. By Robert B. Laughlin. New York, N.Y.: Basic Books. 2008. Pp. 186. $25.95. The skyrocketing acceptance of knowledge as an economically valuable currency--as demonstrated by the strengthening of and increased emphasis on intellectual property rights in the modern world--suggests that the Information Age has truly arrived. Yet Professor Robert Laughlin, a Nobel-laureate physicist, calls the intellectual property bluff in this surprisingly light-hearted essay on the dangers of barricading valuable knowledge behind various forms of protection, both legal and otherwise. Using economics to connect kitchen knives to nuclear secrets and car salesmen, Professor Laughlin describes society's knowledge predicament and hypothesizes on its long-term effects. That predicament, he explains, includes a "legitimacy crisis" (p. 68) among rising generations who freely disregard intellectual property laws, and a thicket of patent owners waiting to stifle those who actually invent useful things. Although Professor Laughlin's vision of a lunar "patent-free zone" (p. 148) is unlikely to occur anytime soon, his tendency toward hyperbole makes more palatable his underlying, more serious message: today's decisions to hide knowledge have troubling implications, and society must either shoulder the cost and inconvenience of changing course now, or suffer more serious consequences in the future. …

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