Saturday, July 12, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

When I opened my email this morning there was, as there usually is, an email from Jim and the Jurisdynamics network. The email included an interesting post by Josh Fershee over on the Ag Law blog. I have a hunch we think alike about airlines. The post made me recall a story I saw while trapped on the treadmill at my local gym. It was a news story about airline efforts to lower the weigh of aircraft to lower fuel costs. For example by using decals for logos instead of paint the weight of a plane can be trimmed by 400 pounds. Getter rid of the useless video equipment for domestic flights cuts 500 pounds. Dropping people off when they put their seat backs back too far can cut up to 300 pounds per person. (Actually this was not a serious proposal.) Taking off with the fuel needed for the trip plus (thank God) some extra as opposed to filling the tank up was also a fuel saver.

Two thoughts occurred to me one of which is probably similar to where Josh is coming from: "They're just doing this now!? But what about maximizing profit in the past (with maybe just a little passed on to consumers)? What about the losses they claim to incur? Were they really leaving all the fuel-saving money on the table for all those years?

Then, if course, (second thought) I began to think isn't there reason to believe that law schools are even worse. In the case of airlines everything you are taught in Economics 101 turned out to be wrong (except the part about collusion). Think of the legislature cutting funding as higher fuel costs. Law School have no 400 pounds. Actually it's more than that. The promotional mailbox-to- trashcan material must weigh many times 400 pounds. Do you think it comes, to make matters worse, airmail? Useless equipment, you bet. Everyone needs the latest in dual computer screens and super-mobile-laser-tipped-power-pointed-automatic-zipper-checking-computers. They improve teaching and scholarship so much. They must or no one would want them. Right? If airlines,where there is some money on the table, jobs at stake, some pressure to economize and even a bit of competition can't even come close to getting it right, what hope is there for law schools.

I wonder what happened to the long ago promised Jim Chen series on law schools as public utilities. I think he is onto something there.

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