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Western New England College, School of Law




In a series of articles on community-development lending published in the late 1990s, I criticized the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).4 Criticizing the CRA, however, was not the sole focus of these articles. I offered a theoretical framework for analyzing the statute that I hoped would be useful to scholars who attempted either to justify or to condemn the statute. I also offered alternatives to the current approach, pointing especially toward the subsidization of economic-development efforts.

Looking back, it appears that I underestimated the degree to which the political controversy surrounding the CRA would color the treatment some later scholars would give to my work. I have been disappointed to find later writers describing me as a "critic" of the statute,5 along with other "critics" such as Charles Calomiris, Michael Klausner, 7 Jonathan Macey,8 Geoffrey Miller, 9 George Benston,10 Peter Swire, 11 and Lawrence White.12 Not that I mind the company; the list of CRA co-critics makes an extremely impressive team of scholars in law and economics. What troubles me about the critic label is that I, as well as many of the others listed as critics, have tried to set out theoretical and empirical hypotheses that would be equally useful to proponents and critics of the statute. In other words, it was my aim to set out a road map for analyzing community-development finance efforts as well as to criticize the shortcomings of the existing approach. Moreover, the label "critic" masks the variety of views expressed by scholars who have criticized the statute. Indeed, many of the so-called critics have criticized other critics in addition to criticizing aspects of the CRA. To label them all as one monolithic mass obscures the record of scholarship in this field and fails to respect the sometimes-divergent individual messages offered by each.

I will make three arguments below. First, I will briefly review the key points of my earlier papers. Second, I will respond to a few of the assertions made by "the critics of the critics." Lastly, I will discuss the way forward: specifically, principles for urban development and legislative reform.


Updated with published paper on 9/23/22

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