Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Case of Metaphor Infringement? An Open Letter to David Wessel of the Wall Street Journal

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

I was sitting this morning at breakfast, leafing through the Wall Street Journal (note to Rupert Murdoch:  I like to have a place to read conservative viewpoints, but why in God's name do you give space to a hack like Karl Rove?), when a column on the global financial situation caused me to break into a James Images Stewart-like, "wull, wull, wull, hold on there just a darned minute!"  In a column entitled "A Prozac Economy Has Its Costs," the economic editor, David Wessel (left), says this:  "If we could find the economic equivalent of Prozac -- a cocktail of "financial stability" overseers, tighter restraints on banks, wise government rule to prevent market excesses -- would it bring a calmer prosperity or a less prosperous calm?"

Now I realize that only a masochist would read an article with the word "epistemology" in the title, but I, me, myself, did say this well before the metaphor of Prozac was a gleam in Mr. Wessel's eye, and it was in the abstract, so you didn't even have to download the damned thing:  "I propose an analogy between medicine and law in the sense of 'regulatory technology.'  If bubbles are the disease, then the analogy is to bipolar syndrome - exuberance, or even a little hypomania is okay on the upswing, but true mania is bad, as is the resulting swing to depression.  Good regulation, then, would be something like lithium, which keeps us on an even keel."

In a fit of pique (or is it a fitue of piq?), I dashed off an e-mail note to Mr. Wessel this morning as follows (in relevant part):

Dear Mr. Wessel:

I read your Prozac metaphor this morning with some amusement and even some mock anger. I have written an academic article (to be published in the Southern California Indisciplinary Law Journal) on the complexity of the financial crisis (epistemologically speaking), and I used the much better lithium metaphor.

I won't demand royalties for metaphor infringement, but at least give me credit!

I feel so much better now.

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You are both wrong. It is the seraquel economy.

Posted by: Alan Childress | Dec 17, 2009 6:49:30 AM

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