by Jeff Sovern
I've been listening to the audio version of Elizabeth Warren's new book, A Fighting Chance (you can read and listen to a short excerpt here). Over at PrawfsBlawg, Jennifer Bard wrote that law professors should read the book. I would go much further: anyone who cares about our country should read (or better yet, listen to the audio version, read by the Senator herself) to this book. It is extraordinary.
I've been a law professor for more than thirty years, and my father became a law professor before I was born, so I've been around law professors since I was in the womb. I've obviously read a lot of things written by law professors. This is the most moving writing authored by a (now-former) law professor I've ever encountered. I never thought a law professor's writings could bring me to tears. But this book did.
Senator Warren blends her personal story with the policy issues and politics that in recent years have consumed her life. Often it feels as if the politics and policy are part of her personal story, and her policy views are clearly informed by her personal experiences. As is widely known (this viral video is only one example), she has a gift for presenting complex materials in a way that is accessible and affecting. That gift is on display throughout the book, whether she is discussing her personal life, the machinations in Washington, her research, or policy issues. As someone who has tried his own hand at writing op-eds, or even just on this blog, I envy that gift. Senator Warren knows how to tell a story.
Senator Warren makes a persuasive case for why families in this country need more help than they are getting. She also explains why they aren't getting it. The book talks about the people who have fought for her. I can see why they do so.
My only complaint so far (I am not done with the book, but I didn't want to wait any longer to post something about it) is her view of consumer disclosure. When she talks about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Senator's goal appears to be that information be disclosed, so that consumers will have an opportunity to know what they are agreeing to when the sign contracts. That is important, but disclosures that consumers don't read do little good. My view is that law-makers should focus on getting consumers information in a way they will use, rather than just getting them information that they may (and probably do) ignore. The CFPB seems to focus on disclosure rather than whether consumers use the disclosures, at least with the new TILA-RESPA disclosures.
In any event, it is an excellent book. Readers of this blog should find it of great interest.