Faculty Books in Brief—Spring 2017

Girl speaking with shapes illustration

Credit: Illustration by Melinda Beck

“Free Speech Beyond Words: The Surprising Reach of the First Amendment,” by Professor Mark V. Tushnet, Alan K. Chen and Joseph Blocher (NYU). The concept of speech is typically defined as the communication of thoughts in spoken words. Yet the authors note that First Amendment protection of speech is far broader, covering nonrepresentational art, instrumental music, and even nonsense—individual topics that Tushnet, Chen, and Blocher focus on (in that order) in the book. The premises behind this protection, they write, “raise difficult questions about the possibilities and limitations of law and expression.” The authors examine how a Pollock painting, a Schoenberg composition, a Carroll poem, and other forms of expression such as dance can be treated as speech under the law and why protecting them matters.

Face and arrows illustration

Credit: Illustration by Melinda Beck

“Nudging Health: Health Law and Behavioral Economics,” edited by Professor I. Glenn Cohen ’03, Holly Fernandez Lynch and Christopher T. Robertson; foreword by Professor Cass R. Sunstein ’78 (Johns Hopkins). Cohen, faculty director of the Petrie-Flom Center; Lynch, the center’s executive director; and Robertson, a professor at University of Arizona’s College of Law, edit essays that focus on how health law and policy can—or should—use incentives and penalties to influence behavior affecting health. Topics include whether incentives motivate healthy behavior, how clinicians can improve patient decision-making, and default mechanisms, such as requiring people to opt out rather than opt in to organ donation. In the context of health care, as Sunstein, author of the influential “Nudge,” writes in the foreword, paternalism may be considered objectionable, but people may also seek direction and help for their health care decisions.

“The Wisdom of Finance: Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return,” by Professor Mihir A. Desai (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). For those people who consider finance all about numbers—often presented in inscrutable charts and graphs—Desai has news for you. It’s also about stories. The HLS professor (also a professor of finance at Harvard Business School) tells some of those stories in a book about the insights that popular culture, philosophy and literature provide about markets: how Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” demonstrates the principal-agent problem or what Jane Austen teaches us about risk management, for example. The book also shows what finance can tell us about humanity: what bankruptcy teaches about reacting to failure or how the Capital Asset Pricing Model shines a light on the value of relationships. “[V]iewing finance through the prism of the humanities,” he writes, “will help us restore humanity to finance.”