I cannot begin to say how devastated I am at the sudden death of Larry Ribstein this morning, just two days shy of his fortieth wedding anniversary. Larry was so creative and innovative in so many fields (this is just how many times we cited to him since February, including just this week), I often found myself wishing that there were several Larrys because everything he wrote had such opportunity cost for other things he didn't have time to write. I was always begging him to write for me when I was at AEI, and the time he said yes, he (with Henry Butler) turned out the important The Sarbanes-Oxley Debacle, a devastating and persuasive takedown of the new law. I'd end up plagiarizing Professor Bainbridge's summary of the rest of Ribstein's body of work to discuss the rest of it, so I'll refer you to his thorough post. In area after area—overcriminalization, overregulation, popular-culture portrayal of business, the cartelization of legal practice and education—he was often close to alone in taking important contrarian positions. If I found myself disagreeing with Larry, I knew it meant I'd better put some soul-searching and analysis into my own position; if I hadn't already thought about an issue of corporate law or federalism, I knew I could scan Ribstein's work on the subject to have a good starting point. So not only do we not have the three or five Larry Ribsteins we needed, we now don't even have the one, and we're poorer for it.
But beyond the loss to legal scholarship is the loss of a good person. Larry was also a friend, but an intellectually honest one who wouldn't hesitate to tell you when he thought you were wrong (which happened several times a year to me). But that made it all the more flattering when he demonstrated support, and he was an early supporter of mine when it was far from clear that my hare-brained quixotic scheme would accomplish anything. I'm going to miss him a lot. Condolences to his family and friends.
Update: also Kirkendall.