This book is deep nonsense, because it assumes without argument that public intellectuals participate in a "market."
The problem is that effective public intellectuals don't produce what Posner thinks they produce.
The public intellectual's publisher, and not the public intellectual, produces the commodity, that more or less corresponds to the activity of the public intellectual.
*Qua* public intellectual, George Orwell was an effective contributor to a conversation in which it was found that Stalinism and other forms of totalitarianism are dead ends. It was his publisher that took his writings and made them into a saleable product.
However, Posner has made it clear in other books that he believes we all participate in a hypostatized Market, and can and should be judged based on Market criteria. His Market replaces outdated ideologies like the dictatorship of the proletariat, while refusing to admit that it is indeed another ideology.
The problem is that if the "marketplace of ideas" is infinite in all directions, consisting of individual producers individually evaluated by atomized consumers, there is literally no way of telling whether the ideas, so marketed, are true or false.
The phenomenon is apparent on the Internet; for in place of a libertarian fantasy-land, in which truth appears because all contributors are equal, and none of them receives special consideration because he represents an institution or a public intellectual, we have an almost daemonic world in which falsity is given equal credence with truth.
Thus on the contemporary Internet, a 15-year-old kid who knows nothing about the law is prized as a legal authority because of the very structure of the Internet. This structure provides no way of mapping authorities such that their views are certified by linkage to an authority outside cyberspace.
Cass Sunstein has described this problem as that of the "discourse cascade" where entire zones of the Internet are dedicate to false propositions such as the importance of the Second Amendment.
Nonetheless, Posner would destroy the institution of the public intellectual by treating the public intellectual as an employee who is found wanting in terms of a hypostatized Productivity of true and verifiable (or not falsifiable, within a time frame Posner gets to specify) ideas.
This is deeply dishonest, for Posner is concerned with deconstructing a priesthood. The problem is that nature abhors a vacuum, and into the vacuum created by the absence of public intellectuals, rushes people like Posner who are public intellectuals, malgre lui.
What Posner misses is that public intellectuals are not entrepreneurs producing a mousetrap. Instead, they are participants in a conversation such that it is completely meaningless to rate their output.
And note that despite Posner's faith in the Market, he mistrusts the real market. For example, he probably thinks Adorno is nonsense, for Theodore Adorno was a Frankfurt School Marxist. Nonetheless, the real market, in the form of computers at Borders and Barnes and Noble, keeps on putting the gloomy Tedster on the shelves, to be pawed by the grubby hands of us ordinary slobs, who are unconvinced that we live in the best of all possible worlds under the market.
Here Posner replicates an intellectual's mistake, which is to find fault with the decisions of the real market, whether in the name of what the intellectual thinks Marx said, or, in the contemporary scene, what Milton Friedman and Sir Karl Popper said. For in a fashion reminiscent of Turing, and Godel, the real market keeps its own deconstruction in print.
Posner is mobilizing resentment against people perceived to be media figures and, since the ordinary educated person does not regard them as real, these public intellectuals can be targets of resentment. When I worked at Princeton, I would occasionally encounter the public intellectual Cornel West, walking down Prospect towards William Street on my lunch break.
Cornel was most engaging and approachable, and reading his output I view him less as a scientist making isolated predictions, than a man engaged in conversation with the past, and with issues of the present day.
It is to me therefore ill-spirited to REDUCE Cornel, or anyone else, to a set of verifiable or falsifiable tokens printed in books, and it is productive, in right-wing, mass media venues, of a new and very nasty phenomenon.
This is the public intellectual *maudit*, like Anne Coulter, who when bested in debate makes physical threats, which can neither be verified nor falsified, conveniently enough. In Coulter's case, this is recommending that we invade Islamic countries and convert their populations to Christianity at the point of a gun.
Note that IF we adopt Posner's programme, of submitting public intellectuals to a sort of performance evaluation (to which, I should note, tenured Federal judges are not subject) this will produce precisely that form of public intellectual we deserve; the public intellectual who games the system to win and is unconcerned with truth.
On the left, this produces Stalinists. On the right, this produces Fascists.
There is something Soviet, Latin American, or mediaeval, about a member of the Federal bench writing books about intellectuals, obstreperous priests, and felonious monks. One senses in Posner's position as a Federal judge something of the mailed fist.