Frank on NY Times on Edwards and Romney

To the Editor:

Re “Two Candidates, Two Fortunes, Two Distinct Views of Wealth” (front page, Dec. 23):

There is a critical distinction between Mitt Romney’s and John Edwards’s wealth. Mr. Romney, as a businessman, made investments that created wealth. Mr. Edwards, as a trial lawyer, made his money through lawsuits that merely took from one pocket and gave to another, and probably destroyed wealth in the process. (Mr. Edwards’s multimillion-dollar medical malpractice verdicts almost certainly hurt the quality of health care in North Carolina.)

Little wonder that Mr. Romney understands that to improve the economy, one needs to expand the pie, while Mr. Edwards’s policy proposals focus entirely on the redistribution of the existing pie without thought for the future adverse consequences to the size of the pie.

Theodore H. Frank
Washington, Dec. 23, 2007
The writer is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

More on the question of pie-sharing and pie-growing at SSRN. More on John Edwards’s trial-lawyer record: the Valerie Lakey trial; Edwards on the failure to warn; Edwards on stacking juries; and Edwards’s cerebral palsy cases (also: April 11 and links therein).


  • Glen Greenwald at SALON.COM says the following about Ted Frank’s letter.

    “This same warped principle is also expressed in how our establishment scorns the work John Edwards did in representing maimed or dead individuals against the corporations which, through recklessness or negligence, destroyed their lives. From a letter from Theodore Frank of the American Enterprise Institute to the New York Times today (h/t Jay Diamond):”

    Greenwald is a trained lawyer, very articulate, and usually thoughtful. His bar-stool analysis of Ted Frank’s letter knocked me off my feet.

    To me the problem with Mr. Edwards wins is not in the transfer of wealth, rather it is that the fact that the verdicts were just plain irrational. “Corporations maim children ” is real hate speech.

    Grenwald also has a screwball view on telecom amnesty. It makes no sense at all, and he feels very strongly about the matter.

  • As I look back at the version of the letter I actually sent to the Times, I see they edited out an adjective (“questionable”) that made it clearer that I was criticizing the irrationality of the verdicts that made Edwards wealthy: though it was, as I note above, an irrationality that Edwards encouraged.

    Greenwald’s post (or perhaps the original Times letter) encouraged some hate-mail, and I politely responded to each e-mail sent from a real e-mail address, but no one had a response to the data I presented about Edwards’s verdicts. Jay Diamond himself wrote me, but was rendered speechless.