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Richard Posner is an influential legal theorist and author and currently a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Posner attended Yale as an undergraduate,[…]

Posner talks about growing up in New York City during World War II.

Question: Who are you?

Richard Posner: Richard Posner.  I’m a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, New York City.  During World War II, well of course I was just a small child obviously. I was aware of the war, and we lived on the eighth floor of an apartment on Central Park West, and my friend lived on the sixth floor. And I envied him because I thought if a bomb fell, it would hit the eighth floor before it got to the sixth floor. I remember the news reels. New York has not actually changed much in its physical features or its crowdedness and so on.

We moved to Scarsdale in 1948 when I was nine. I actually liked that a lot better. I love to visit New York, but I don’t have any desire to live here.


Question: When did you know you wanted to pursue law?

Well it’s all a series of accidents. 

My father was a lawyer, and law was kind of a residual choice for people who didn’t have strong occupational motivations. 

When I was in college, I majored in English.  And I gave some thought to going to graduate school and literature, but it didn’t appeal ultimately, for a variety of reasons.  So I just went to law school.  It just a default option.  I didn’t have any particular passion for law or anything like that. 

But in the ‘60s, after I’d graduated and worked in Washington, I became interested in economic regulation, application of economics to law.  And then when I started teaching at Stanford in 1968, I started meeting economists.  I came to Chicago the following year.  So as far as my professional interests are concerned, they were determined mainly by engagement with economic cases in the ‘60s and then meeting economists.


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