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.
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.
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.
Leonard Liggio, who died this week, was an important pillar in the modern libertarian movement and someone who connected modern libertarian ideas with their historical antecedents. I chatted briefly with Tom G. Palmer about Liggio’s impact on ideas and libertarianism.
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.
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.