Internet Censorship Is Not the Answer to Online Piracy

Internet censorship is not the answer to problems of piracy online. Cato Institute research fellow Julian Sanchez explains that internet censorship won’t effectively address the problem of piracy and will threaten innovation and the liberties of Americans by engaging in unconstitutional prior restraint.

Video produced by Caleb Brown, Austin Bragg and Julian Sanchez.

Ron Paul’s Bit of Dirty Pool

I like Ron Paul a whole lot. As politicians go, he’s definitely in the top percentile. But this ad is dirty pool.

You don’t compare annual income to net worth in the same chart. You just don’t. It’s inapt and it’s beneath Ron Paul. It should be taken down.

That being said, Newt Gingrich has no moral center, no regard for liberty and deserves every truthful attack sent his way. Carry on.

Peter Orszag, Meet F.A. Hayek

Peter Orszag, Barack Obama’s former OMB director:

In an 1814 letter to John Taylor, John Adams wrote that “there never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” That may read today like an overstatement, but it is certainly true that our democracy finds itself facing a deep challenge: During my recent stint in the Obama administration as director of the Office of Management and Budget, it was clear to me that the country’s political polarization was growing worse—harming Washington’s ability to do the basic, necessary work of governing. If you need confirmation of this, look no further than the recent debt-limit debacle, which clearly showed that we are becoming two nations governed by a single Congress—and that paralyzing gridlock is the result.

So what to do? To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.

F.A. Hayek (The Road to Serfdom):

It may be the unanimously expressed will of the people that its parliament should prepare a comprehensive economic plan, yet neither the people nor its representatives need therefore be able to agree on any particular plan. The inability of democratic assemblies to carry out what seems to be a clear mandate of the people will inevitably cause dissatisfaction with democratic institutions. Parliaments come to be regarded as ‘talking shops,’ unable or incompetent to carry out the tasks for which they’ve been chosen.

(Thanks to Jason Vines for the Hayek quote.)

Conduct and Speech

On the announced retirement of Justice Stephens, I’m reminded that he wrote a dissent in the case of Texas v. Johnson, a case that established that the First Amendment protects expressions of opinion through the medium of a burning flag.

Stephens disagreed, saying that the case “has nothing to do with ‘disagreeable ideas.’ It involves disagreeable conduct that, in my opinion, diminishes the value of an important national asset.”

Metaphorical national assets aside, separating ideas from conduct is the aim of many speech reformers who cringe when people use money to advocate on behalf of things they like. It’s the money they want to regulate, not the speech, don’t you see? Spending money is conduct, but everyone likes free speech. Yup, eeeeveryone likes free speech juuust fine.

The speech reformers just want to make sure that money doesn’t distort the minds of voters who, as we all know, are, well, fragile. Mentally. They just need to be free of the distractions of people who want to influence them unduly. Spending money on TV ads or the could inflame their passions, misrepresent The Truth about an incumbent or distort otherwise carefully deliberated, reasonably determined voter sentiment. We just need to let them think, so quit trying to influence those good people with your money-speech!

Burning a flag, while less expensive than a series of slick 30-second issue ads featuring a candidate in grainy slo-mo footage where he advocates on behalf of The Plague, is conduct that could do the same thing. It would, after all, be harder to regulate or ban outright if it were treated as speech. Would Shepard Fairey’s iconic in-kind assistance to the Obama campaign pass Constitutional muster if Stephens had his way and flag burning and ad buys were treated less like speech and more like hurling Molotov cocktails? How could it? Creating that image was an act with intent to influence! It was unadulterated, fully regulable conduct! Even if it did pass muster, it would require the rubber stamp of some kind of election committee. I don’t want to meet the people that incumbent lawmakers and presidents would appoint to such a committee.

Given President Obama’s bombast against a Supreme Court majority that found the First Amendment contains the right to organize for effective speech, I fully expect a Stephens replacement to possess the same hostility to speech-facilitating conduct (with intent to influence!).

(via Jonathan Blanks)