Kinsley on Citizens United

This is a well-considered analogy from Michael Kinsley, one I wish more people would consider when they cry foul when (some) corporations decide to spend money advancing their preferred ideas or candidates:

The analogy I like (as did the Supreme Court in its ruling) is to a newspaper. Suppose Citizens United were reversed and President Trump decided one day that he was sick of The New York Times. So he proposes a law setting a ceiling on the amount any individual or organization can spend putting out a newspaper. Constitutional? I hope not. But it’s hard to see the difference in principle between this and a law limiting the amount a corporation or union may spend promoting a political candidate.

I recently chatted with Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth about his proposal to remove First Amendment protections for many public discussions of federal candidates. He wasn’t particularly convincing in presenting an argument on behalf of an amendment that would strip away the constitutional protections for media outlets to discuss candidates openly while simultaneously asking that I trust Congress to delicately reanimate the corpse of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance rules prohibiting corporations (but not Trusted Media Outlets) from having their say. I have a hard time thinking that Congress, given the opportunity, would craft a proper balance between the interests of Democratic Government and the rights of individuals to band together and say whatever they think needs to be heard.

Listen here:

Charles Murray’s Dangerous Idea

I chatted with Charles Murray about his recent book, By the People. In it, he describes what he sees as a way to effectively shut down enforcement of vast chunks of destructive federal regulation. All that’s needed is some generous benefactors and some civil disobedience.

Net Neutrality Rhetoric, Reality

First, I love The Oatmeal. Matt Inman’s comic regularly speaks my mind on all manner of life’s little complaints (and solutions). Sadly, when he tried to explain net neutrality, I think he missed the mark. By a lot.

Then the President decided he’d offer some free advice to the FCC on how that agency should proceed with regulating the internet. Same problem.

So I sat down with Berin Szoka of Techfreedom to try to separate the aspirations of activists from the realities of how markets and the internet actually function and what kind of regulatory regime will serve consumers best.

Reforming Surveillance Authorities

The President’s press conference last week was a disaster by most measures. Conor Friedersdorf has a good tit-for-tat followup. The President essentially denied the patriotism of a man who threw his life away to tell his fellow Americans about how their rights are being systematically violated, then seemed to strongly imply that a rigorous and responsible debate about surveillance was about to spring forth before NSA leaks ruined it. Tough sell, to say the least.

I chatted with Jim Harper about avenues for reforming these broad surveillance powers and a new brief filed by the Cato Institute in support of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s case against the feds.

NSA’s Bulk Data Collection on the Defensive

I chatted with Justin Amash today about NSA bulk surveillance of Americans and the reaction to his struggle to rein in the agency. Here’s the video.

Spoilers below:

  • He thinks James Clapper should be prosecuted for lying to Congress in March.
  • He thinks Chris Christie’s hamfisted (couldn’t resist) attack on libertarian Republicans is pointless.
  • He doesn’t necessarily agree that the NSA leaker shouldn’t be prosecuted, which his colleague Thomas Massie has suggested.
  • The End (of the Free Ride) Is Near

    The fiscal crises facing governments at both the federal and state level offers an opportunity to throw off many unsustainable government institutions like massive transfer programs and unsustainable state pensions. Kevin D. Williamson makes his case in The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier and More Secure.

    It’s possible that Mr. Williamson and I agree on what’s to come after governments go broke, start breaking contracts (like in Rhode Island) and otherwise throw up their hands and admit that the party’s over. Perhaps I’m just more ill-at-ease over the thought that these agreements with public sector workers and retirees were so ill-conceived and stupid that promises will soon have to be broken.