June 16th, 2012

Hovenkamp, _The Antitrust Enterprise_ (kindle)

For a review of this book written by someone who actually appears to know what he's writing about, try this:


Altho I can't recommend the comments thread.

Law is law. If you try to make sense of it with reason or logic, you're bound to go astray. So Hovenkamp's historical approach is nice and he does a good job of presenting the politics and personalities involved without getting mean-spirited (which, if you stop to think about it for even two seconds in a row, is somewhat miraculous). He's a practical, pragmatic person, with a profound respect for the heavy-handedness of litigation and judicial decision making. If you have any idealism left in you about how the evils of blah corporation blah bleeping blah can be addressed by the court system, Hovenkamp'll do a pretty effective job of wringing that out of you.

Because the world has moved along a bit since Hovenkamp produced this book -- but not so long that we've forgotten the relevant changes -- the reader can judge for herself whether Hovenkamp's opinions on the Microsoft settlement make sense. If you aren't sure, and go looking at what other people said on the subject at the time, you might be surprised by just how careful Hovenkamp is in what he does say.

I picked this out because (a) the idea of reading anything by Bork made me feel, er, self-destructive and (b) I really wanted some kind of overview of antitrust from a legal/historical/policy perspective written by someone within the legal community.

I particularly was interested in an overview of antitrust policy and law because of the DOJ suit against 5 of the Big 6 publishers in the US and Apple. A lot of the commentary on the suit has focused on the effects of competition among retailers and/or publishers, rather than on the effects of competition on consumers. Hovenkamp simultaneously stays focused on the effects of competition on the end-consumer AND portrays in some detail how the legislative, judicial and policy aspects of antitrust have often instead focused on preserving a marketplace of many, small(er) competitive suppliers and/or retailers, assuming that without that populous marketplace, consumers will suffer. Current theory and practice assume that monopolies are relatively rare and may well be the result of a company or small number of companies which are doing exactly what consumers want at something very close to marginal cost.

Hovenkamp in no way gets into how ceasing a multi-decade policy of protection for small companies has changed the economy in general. He _does_ spend a fair amount of time explaining how antitrust should not be used to handle things like unfair or stupid contracts (<-- not his words).

Reading Hovenkamp, I could hear in the back of my head a couple of libertarian friends/acquaintances getting extremely steamed. Partly about the content, application and history of Robinson-Pattman. Partly about Hovenkamp's reasoning about how per se rules _have_ been applied vs. how they should be applied. I could also hear a lot of social activist friends/acquaintances getting equally steamed about Hovenkamp cavalierly signing on to what brought us Wal-Mart. As I discussed what I was reading with R., we mostly were somewhat appalled about what used to happen and generally okay with the direction things are going and Hovenkamp's frameworks specifically (he's got an agenda, altho it's more obvious in some places than others).

I _particularly_ liked Hovenkamp on the subject of intellectual property and libertarians.

"For example, while extreme free marketers might rail at the excesses of regulation or antitrust, they tend to accept the system of intellectual property (IP) rights as if it were handed down from a mountaintop...Anyone who does not believe that the IP laws are a form of regulation has not read the federal intellectual property statues and the technical rules promulgated under them."

Perhaps the best thing about this statement (over and above how outrageously funny it is to anyone who has met this kind of libertarian), is that Hovenkamp recognizes that not all "extreme free marketers" make this error: he says "tend". I'd love to hear Hovenkamp go after people who think the bankruptcy laws aren't a form of government regulation, because I've run across them, too.

He's still right of center, and if you are a big believer in small business, he's likely to piss you off. But I thought he found a good route through an ugly thicket, and he covered the ground well.

Leo Kanner _Child Psychiatry_,

I'm not entirely sure which edition this is. It's a 1942 3rd printing; Kanner produced at least two later _editions_.

I picked up the one book by Kanner that I could get through the local library system (without resorting to ILL). He seems like a really sensible man, even from the perspective of 2012 and to say that about _any_ psychiatrist from the 1930s seems almost incomprehensible to me.

I haven't read the whole thing; I started by sampling some areas of particular interest to me. The section on epilepsy separates out "pyknolepsy" from absence or petit mal seizures but it seems Kanner had some reservations about it as a separate category and shows some opposition to actually diagnosing it except retrospectively. His treatments list for epilepsy includes a section on dietary management that includes a ketogenic diet which has been in the news again recently.

Immediately before the section on epilepsy is a section on sexual disorders in children, which leaves me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, the last section ("The Child as an Object of Sexual Practices"), while short, would be tough to improve on, right down to the last two prescriptive sentences (sex ed will make kids wary of sexual predators and parents should know who their kids are around -- this after pointedly saying that parents and teachers _need_ to be aware that this kind of thing can happen in any neighborhood). On the other hand, the section entitled "Homosexual Activities" is less positive. Not freaking out about a same-sex crush in childhood, well, that's probably good. A couple of rather harrowing examples (an older boy sexually abusing younger boys after seeing other boys do the same, and a man sexually abusing a boy) later, Kanner directly addresses the born-this-way question:

"In these two and many other cases the theoretical question [ouch!] as to whether there exists such a thing as a congenital homosexual tendency is certainly of much less practical significance than the concrete facts which obviously led up to the boys' performances." *sigh* The balance amounts to, a well run home/family will identify "such influences" early and deal with them without freaking out. He doesn't _say_ that'll prevent all homosexuality but the reader is certainly invited to assume that. Probably this was the safest thing to say at the time?

This sentence, "Fellatio (immissio membri in os) is a surprisingly frequent form of boys' overt homosexual activities" suggests all kinds of entertaining things about (a) how sheltered Kanner was growing up as well as (b) just how many stories he heard along these lines as soon as he started his practice.

The last example in this section is a true mess and while it's clear Kanner wished he could have extracted the kid from the situation, it's less clear how Kanner thinks the kid should have been directed if he could have been removed from his stepmother (who also wanted him gone).

Kanner's attitude in "Fetishism" is deliciously low-key: he thinks nobody should get too worked up about it, even if some adults with fetishes say they started in childhood.

Kanner's description of thumbsucking and its treatment is notable in its skepticism of the typical approaches AND correct understanding of how those approaches can take an existing real problem and add to that something else even worse.

I'll continue to read this on and off; I'm surprised at just _how_ readable it is. I'll also take a look around and see if I can find any of his later work, perhaps a later edition of this book.


Here's a review of the 3rd edition.


Link to full pdf can be found on the page.

Our Neighborhood Well Represented at Horse Show

Was that suitably braggy?

R. had told me there were two young brothers who lived on one of the dead ends off our "block" who also went to Greener Pastures, which participated in the Flying Change show today. Those two boys and my son and daughter were a class of four in today's exercises. When T. and I were out on the scooters later, he sent his scooter rolling into their driveway -- I hadn't realized it was their driveway -- then came back to get me. Meanwhile, one of the boys chased it down and started bringing it out to T., thus leading to a pleasant interaction between T., me, the two boys, and a man I suspect is their grandfather, during which I extracted what their placement is.

I like them. I expect we'll see more of them over the months and years to come, living so close and sharing a weekend activity.