Monthly Archives: May 2010

Recent Developments in Comparative Tax Theory

Omri Marian, The Discursive Failure in Comparative Tax Law, 58 Am. J. Comp. L. (forthcoming 2010), (available at SSRN), Carlo Garbarino, An Evolutionary Approach to Comparative Taxation: Theory, Methods and Agenda for Research, 12 Theoretical Inquiries in Law (forthcoming 2010), and Hugh Ault & Brian Arnold, Comparative Taxation, A Structural Analysis, 3d Ed. (available at

Why isn’t there more work on comparative tax law, and why hasn’t a more sophisticated methodology developed to address comparative law tax issues?    A new book and two forthcoming articles deal with these questions.

The book is the third edition of Hugh Ault and Brian Arnold’s Comparative Income Taxation: A Structural Analysis, which appeared earlier this year.   One of the few comprehensive works on the subject—Victor Thuronyi’s 2003 volume also stands out in particular—the new Ault and Arnold reflects several changes, now covering nine (albeit primarily advanced) countries and including an additional section that covers individual, business, and international tax rules in topical as opposed to country-by-country fashion.  While the book remains primarily descriptive in nature, any comparativist will tell you that gathering information is half the battle, and much of what is needed, at least for the major OECD countries, is contained here. Continue reading "Recent Developments in Comparative Tax Theory"

Patent Utility Reduxit

Michael Risch, Reinventing Usefulness (forthcoming  2010 B.Y.U. L. Rev –), available at SSRN.

In academic scholarship, it sometimes happens that an entire field of inquiry becomes neglected year after year—to the point that nearly everyone believes the area incapable of yielding anything much of intellectual interest.   Such beliefs are almost always wrong, for it is the fallow fields of thought that are prime to be fruitful again.  An excellent example is patent utility doctrine, and specifically the issue whether inventions must be proven commercially useful as a prerequisite to patentability.  The conventional wisdom is that the law resolved this question against imposing such a requirement  more than a century and a half ago.  The issue is long dead; forgotten; abandoned.  Until now.

In his new article Reinventing Usefulness, Michael Risch reexamines patent utility doctrine and advances creative and insightful arguments for requiring that all inventions demonstrate “commercial utility” prior to patenting.  The highest compliment I can pay this article is not that I agree with it—I’m still somewhat doubtful—but that the article has forced me to think hard about an area I foolishly thought to be largely barren.  The article is memorable precisely because its thesis is unsettling; it demands rethinking of utility doctrine and other aspects of the patent law. Continue reading "Patent Utility Reduxit"

The Beautiful Struggle: A Prosecutor’s Redemption Story

Paul Butler’s new book Let’s Get Free is essential reading for those who care about American criminal justice, prosecutorial power, and doing justice from inside the system.  It is also a beautiful rarity for a book of big scholarly ideas: page-turning reading.  The writing hums with the rhythm, flow, and narrative of hip hop at its best—one of the inspirations for an intriguing chapter and the book’s subtitle: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice.  The intimate portrait of the prosecutor and the criminal justice system that Paul presents is an important contribution to the literature penetrating the opacity of prosecutorial power, practices and pressures.1

It is a tribute to how successfully Paul liberates his scholarly ideas from the stilted prose that dooms legal scholarship to limited readership that one of my law students recommended this hot new book to me.  He was moved and inspired by the book enough to spread the word and seek to discuss it.  This is the power of great ideas, set in beautiful prose, made compelling through narrative.  And narrative is the thread that binds this book of many big ideas. Continue reading "The Beautiful Struggle: A Prosecutor’s Redemption Story"

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