Patterico's Pontifications

8/21/2017

On Making Federalism Great Again

Filed under: General — Dana @ 5:21 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Ilya Somin has an insightful op-ed up over at National Review Online. It is well worth the read:

The Republicans are supposed to be the party of state autonomy and strict limits on federal power. But you would not know it based on the first six months of the Trump administration. On a variety of major issues involving immigration, law enforcement, and the “war on drugs,” the administration’s policies exemplify the phenomenon of “fair-weather federalism”: respecting limits on federal power only when politically convenient….

Sadly, the Trump administration and the GOP are far from the only fair-weather federalists in politics. Many of the liberal Democrats currently relying on federalism principles to protect sanctuary cities against Trump decried those very constraints in the past, when they impeded progressive priorities.

Both the Left and the Right could benefit from a more principled commitment to limiting federal power…. This is especially true in an era of deep partisan polarization, when Democrats and Republicans are farther apart on most issues than they have been in decades….

Decentralization of power can also help defuse the partisan hatred that is poisoning our politics. If the federal government had less control over our lives, both sides would have less to fear from their opponents’ victories at the national level.

Some people understandably fear that restricting federal power might open the door to oppressive state and local policies. The federal government undoubtedly has a role to play in enforcing constitutional rights and preventing unconstitutional discrimination by state and local governments. But carrying out those functions does not require anything approaching the sweeping authority currently wielded by Washington.

Since the election of Trump, leading progressive scholars such as National Constitution Center president Jeffrey Rosen and Yale Law School dean Heather Gerken have urged the Left to take a more favorable view of federalism. Left and Right are unlikely to come to a complete consensus on federalism any time soon. But there is considerable potential for agreement nonetheless. A new bipartisan and cross-ideological appreciation for limits on federal power could become one of the few beneficial developments of the Trump era. Together, we might yet make federalism great again.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

Solar Eclipse

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:52 am

I saw what appeared to be a solar flare at 5 o’clock on the sun. With my naked eye.

Crazy.

UPDATE: My daughter took this picture with an iPhone through my father-in-law’s solar-safe telescope.

These images are from the NASA site.

If you look at the proximity of the moon to the sunspots, the NASA photo was taken perhaps 3 minutes after my daughter’s photo — but from a completely different place in the country, from Wyoming.

8/19/2017

Senator Tim Scott: President Trump’s “Moral Authority Is Compromised”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:55 pm

I have a post at RedState titled Senator Tim Scott: President Trump’s “Moral Authority Is Compromised.” There’s video. Quote from the post:

Regardless of your views of the specifics of Trump’s comments, they have been a giant distraction from moving policy forward on things like ObamaCare repeal or tax reform.

And they have.

8/18/2017

Steve Bannon Out, Returns To Breitbart Feeling “Jacked Up”

Filed under: General — Dana @ 5:50 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Late to this: Steve Bannon is out, or as the NY Post puts it:

Top presidential adviser and nationalist bomb-thrower Steve Bannon is out of a job, the White House said Friday.

“Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

In a report in the Weekly Standard , Bannon, talked about the circumstances leading up to his departure, the Trump presidency, and his disdain for the “West Wing Democrats”. He also fired a warning shot:

Bannon assigns blame for the thwarting of his program on “the West Wing Democrats,” but holds special disdain for the Washington establishment—especially those Republicans who have, he believes, willfully failed to provide Trump with meaningful victories.

And, he believes, things are about to get worse for Trump. “There’s about to be a jailbreak of these moderate guys on the Hill”—a stream of Republican dissent, which could become a flood.”

“I feel jacked up,” he says. “Now I’m free. I’ve got my hands back on my weapons. Someone said, ‘it’s Bannon the Barbarian.’ I am definitely going to crush the opposition. There’s no doubt. I built a f***ing machine at Breitbart. And now I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do.”

Reports say that Bannon chaired an editorial meeting tonight, having returned as chief executive.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

8/17/2017

Senator Tim Scott: President Trump’s “Moral Authority Is Compromised” by Charlottesville Comments

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:59 pm

Vice News interviewed Senator Tim Scott today, and Senator Scott had some criticism for Donald Trump’s recent comments about Charlottesville:

SEN. SCOTT: I am not going to defend the indefensible. I’m not here to do that. I’m here to be clear, and to be concise and succinct. His comments on Monday were strong. His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happens. There’s no question about that. We should all call that on the carpet. I certainly have.

INTERVIEWER: So does the president have moral authority now?

SEN. SCOTT: I think he has it. He’s losing a part of it.

INTERVIEWER: He has it? You think so?

SEN. SCOTT: Abso — he’s, we elected him as President so there’s no question that we gave him moral authority. The problem is that in this situation, in the last three or four days, what we’ve seen is that moral authority being compromised by the lack of clarity, by what we have seen as the, a pivot backwards, which is very unsettling for many Americans, to include me.

You can watch more than the excerpt I have provided by scrolling backwards or forwards in the video.

Regardless of your views of the specifics of Trump’s comments, they have been a giant distraction from moving policy forward on things like ObamaCare repeal or tax reform. Senator Scott isn’t making headlines for talking tax reform today. He’s making headlines for criticizing the comments from the President of his own party.

This keeps happening. And guess what?

It’s never going to stop, as long as Donald Trump is President.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Piers Morgan And The “Nazi Exception” To The First Amendment

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:00 am

Yesterday I took on Matthew Walther’s inane claim that the government should censor Nazis. Today I address Piers Morgan’s similar contention that the First Amendment should not be used to protect Nazis. Responding to someone who said Morgan didn’t understand the purpose of the First Amendment, Morgan replied:

Piers Morgan saying he understands the purpose of the First Amendment reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld’s response to the car rental agent who told him that she didn’t have his reserved car — but that she knows what a reservation is. Seinfeld looked at her and said: “I don’t think you do!” You say you understand the purpose of the First Amendment, Piers Morgan? I don’t think you do!

Charles C.W. Cooke has already addressed this lunacy admirably at National Review. Let me chime in with my own less polished thoughts, after first quoting Cooke:

Morgan is echoing an idea that has been advanced repeatedly in the last couple of days: To wit, that there is something particular about Nazism that makes it ineligible for protection under the Bill of Rights. This is flat-out wrong. And, more than that, it’s dangerous. Abhorrent and ugly as they invariably are, there simply is no exception to the First Amendment that exempts Nazis, white supremacists, KKK members, Soviet apologists, or anyone else who harbors disgraceful or illiberal views. As the courts have made abundantly clear, the rules are the same for ghastly little plonkers such as Richard Spencer as they are for William Shakespeare. If that weren’t true, the First Amendment would be pointless.

This is not a “controversial” statement. It is not an “interesting view.” It is not a contrarian contribution to an intractable “grey area.” It is a fact. There are a handful of limits to free speech in the United States, and all of them are exceptions of form rather than of viewpoint.

. . . .

“I believe in free speech, but” or “I just don’t think this is a free speech issue” — both popular lines at the moment — simply will not cut it as arguments. On the contrary. In reality, all that the “but” and the “I just don’t think” mean is that the speaker hopes to exempt certain people because he doesn’t like them. But one can no more get away from one’s inconsistencies by saying “it’s not a speech issue to me” than one can get away from the charge that one is unreliable on due process insisting in certain cases, “well, that’s not a due process issue to me.” This is a free speech issue. Those who wish it weren’t just trying to have it both ways — to argue bluntly for censorship, and then to pretend that they aren’t.

The point I made yesterday regarding this issue is that, if you’re going to have a principle that says the government can ban speech, you have to ask one very important question: who gets to decide what speech is banned? And the answer is going to be “government officials.” And government officials will view the question through the lens of their own world views and self-interest rather than the common good. That alone should be enough to give you pause.

Are you comfortable with giving the IRS the power to audit people based on their political viewpoint? If the answer to that question is “no,” you should feel even more uneasy about giving government the power to ban wrongthink, or to imprison people whose views they don’t like.

It’s actually distressing to me that I need to say any of this. Rejection of content-based censorship by the government should be such a basic part of every American’s education that blog posts like this are completely unnecessary. But when prominent people keep saying such a silly view, it has to be refuted.

One irony in all of this is that the Nazis themselves suppressed speech they didn’t like as a way to stamp out any possible opposition to their views. Those who have studied history might remember that the Nazis made long lists of unacceptable books. Then they raided libraries and bookstores, seized those books, and held book burnings. Yet Piers Morgan would apparently be happy to see the government burn books, as long as the books arguably support Nazi views. How could he object to such book burnings, given his recent statements? Does this not show the insanity of his position?

This goes back to my question about who decides what speech can be banned. It might sound benign to say: hey, Nazi thought is bad, so obviously it should be banned. But when the Nazis were in power, they didn’t think Nazi thought was the problem. They thought the Jews were the problem. So instead of banning books by the likes of, say, Richard Spencer, they banned books by the likes of Albert Einstein.

Oppressive regimes throughout history have always tried to control citizens’ thoughts by banning speech. Tools like Piers Morgan who advocate for content-based government censorship are actually advocating, in part, the return of totalitarianism. No matter how attractive it might sound to carve out an “exception” to the First Amendment for obviously hateful speech like pro-Nazi propaganda, such efforts are illegal, morally wrong, and should be rejected in the interest of freedom.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

8/16/2017

No, the Government Should Not Censor White Supremacist Views

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:00 am

An incident like the one in Charlottesville emboldens the folks who want to control your speech. Nobody wants to speak up for Nazis, of course. The speech police seize upon such an environment to suggest that, hey, what would be wrong with having government ban white supremacist speech? Thus we get hot takes like this: Matthew Walther’s piece at The Week titled Censor White Supremacy. After some head-scratching citations to writers as disparate as Stanley Fish and John Milton, Walther presents this wrong-headed peroration:

Which brings us to the recent decisions by Go Daddy and Google to deny the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi publication, a home on their web hosting platforms. I have yet to see anyone find fault with this decision even though realistically speaking it amounts to censorship. This is in itself a good thing, though few people have acknowledged it as such. At present it is easy to ignore the elephant in the room by saying that these are private companies free to make their own decisions about what viewpoints can be expressed on web servers that they own and control. But there are only so many web hosting services. Suppose no one was willing to offer these Hitler fanboys room to air their grievances with African-Americans and Jews on the internet — suppose that they could find no publisher willing to reproduce their pamphlets and no one willing to sell them a Xerox machine and paper to distribute them on their own?

Would it still be okay? Why is it reasonable to pretend that an action that is licit and even commendable when taken by a corporation that will soon be worth $1 trillion would be unjust if an ill-defined entity called “the state” undertook it? The world in which the government enjoys a monopoly on coercion and corporations are not state entities whose actions would not be possible without a vast infrastructure and legal apparatus in which they operate is a fantasy. The procedural question of who is responsible for the censorship is beside the point. The only relevant one is whether it is laudable.

I for one am happy that the Daily Stormer is gone. People who agree with me need to ask themselves why they would have found it upsetting if the Department of Justice had shut it down.

Look. I could launch into a long historical discussion about the founding fathers and the reasons for the passage of the First Amendment, but for now I’m just going to keep this simple. When someone tells you that, when it comes to whether the government should be authorized to shut down speech, the only relevant question is “whether [the speech] is laudable” — ask yourself: Who gets to decide that?

In Matthew Walther’s mind, of course, the answer is simple. Matthew Walther will decide for you what speech is laudable. That’s not how he would put it, of course. He would launch into a long dissertation about societal norms and what every right-thinking person believes. But boil it down, and the answer will be that Matthew Walther decides. Because coincidentally enough, whatever system Matthew Walther advocates for choosing what is laudable, Matthew Walther will find himself in agreement with the results of that system.

But when you put the government in charge of censoring speech, that’s not how it works. The government will decide for you what is laudable. If you put the Department of Justice in charge of determining what is laudable, they’re going to use their standards, Mr. Walther. Not yours. Theirs.

And government officials’ standards about what speech is “laudable” tend to revolve around whether that speech makes said government officials look good or bad.

That is how it has worked for, oh, about all of human history. They don’t care about racism, or social justice, or any of that crap, Mr. Walther. They care about themselves.

I don’t know if Matthew Walther has noticed, but the fella who chooses who heads up the Justice Department these days is not the most virulent opponent of Neo-Nazism the world has ever seen. The speech Donald Trump considers least laudable, actually, is the speech that criticizes him.

That’s the guy you want to empower to shut down speech, Matthew Walther? Really?

And if you’re a supporter of Trump, all you have to do is imagine Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama wielding the power Mr. Walther wants to give them. If that doesn’t frighten you, nothing will.

And, by the way, the references in Walther’s piece to an “ill-defined entity called ‘the state'” demonstrate Walther’s fundamental error about the critical distinction between the state and society at large. Because “the state” is actually a very simple entity to define in this context. The state is defined as the folks who get to put you in jail when you don’t do what they say.

Society can shun you. The state can send men with guns to your front door to drag you to a small room with a nasty toilet, where they lock you up and don’t give you the key to get out.

That is the difference between society and the state, Mr. Walther. And it is nothing to shrug at.

We need to be sure that our anger at racism and murderous Hitler-worshippers doesn’t turn us into sheep who surrender control over our speech to the federal government. Condemn white supremacist views, to be sure. Shun those who don’t condemn virulent racism all you want. Deny Nazis access to your privately held property. It’s your right as an American.

But don’t give the feds the power to decide whether to let you speak or not, depending on what the President of the United States happens to think is “laudable.”

That would be a huge mistake.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

8/15/2017

When We Told Trump To Be A Uniter And Not A Divider, We Didn’t Mean This

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:30 am

Donald Trump has finally fulfilled his role as The Great Unifier . . . in a way. Namely, he has unified Latin America against him, at a time when we need their support against the incipient dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.

Trump recently said: “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.” According to the New York Times, this statement is, if anything, helpful to Maduro — because it has appalled leaders throughout Latin America. Yes, yes, I know, it’s the #FAKENEWS!! New York Times. But they have a lot of quotes from Latin American leaders to back up the assertion.

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela had become a pariah among fellow Latin American leaders as his beleaguered country staggered toward dictatorship. But a threat by President Trump to use the American military against Mr. Maduro’s government has united those leaders in a different direction: demanding that the United States keep out of the region’s affairs.

“The possibility of a military intervention shouldn’t even be considered,” Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s president, said on Sunday during a visit by Vice President Mike Pence to the region. “America is a continent of peace. It is the land of peace.”

. . . .

The dispute began last Friday when Mr. Trump, speaking with reporters about an escalating standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons, suddenly added Venezuela to countries where he said he was considering military intervention.

“We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary,” the president said.

The remark was immediately seen as bolstering Mr. Maduro domestically, where he, like his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, has long warned of United States coup plots and invasions. But it has also left Latin Americans in a difficult position, forced to choose between one country accused of dictatorship and another being called an empire — or to simply condemn both.

Peru, which has taken some of the toughest stands in the region against Venezuela, issued a statement on Saturday condemning possible use of force, and Mexico said the crisis could not be resolved with soldiers. Brazil said renouncing violence was the “basis of democratic cohabitation.”

We’re often told that we should look at what the President has done, not what he has said. (Even that metric is not looking so good for him these days, by the way.) But that’s not how it works with diplomacy. Words matter.

Naturally, being the New York Times, the newspaper overstates the case, and praises Barack Obama for actions that actually deserved condemnation. For example:

Under President Barack Obama, however, Washington aimed to get past the conflicts by building wider consensus over regional disputes. In 2009, after the Honduran military removed the leftist president Manuel Zelaya from power in a midnight coup, the United States joined other countries in trying to broker — albeit unsuccessfully — a deal for his return.

Not mentioned: the fact that Zelaya had violated the constitution of Honduras, and had deliberately flouted an order from the country’s Supreme Court. Also not mentioned: the fact that the members of the military had an arrest warrant for Zelaya issued by that same Supreme Court, arising from those violations. Also not mentioned: Zelaya was a puppet of Obama’s buddy Hugo Chavez, and a friend to Obama’s other buddies, the Castro brothers. While the forcible exile of Zelaya was not really defensible, there was a case to be made for his arrest and removal from office — but Obama leapt to Zelaya’s defense and declared him to still be the legal President of Honduras.

So let’s not praise Obama as the master of restraint in Latin America. But ill-considered threats of military force are not a great idea either.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

8/14/2017

Iceland’s Darkness: Eradicating Down Syndrome From Their Society

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:39 pm

[guest post by Dana]

A long while back, I was strolling through a Disney Store during my lunch hour, and a young man turned and hugged me. Out of the blue. This perfect stranger with a big smile on his face then told me he loved me. I was so startled that I just stood there confused. In a moment, an older couple rushed over and gently pulled the young man away. They apologized to me for their son’s burst of affection, and explained that their son was an “exceptional hugger”. Why, yes, I could see that! Their son had Down syndrome. He loved everyone. Including lucky me. I had a pleasant conversation with the couple, and then said good-bye. I felt happy. It certainly wasn’t one of those Big Deal moments in life, but rather a small, quiet one. It was the kind that sneaks up on you, and you just know something pure and sweet just shot through the universe, momentarily cutting through the misery, and you just happen to be there, in the right place at the right time, to catch that shot of love and tuck it away in your heart.

That happy run-in came to mind when I read about Iceland’s near-eradication of Downs syndrome births. As if this modern-marvel of eugenics was something to cheer about:

Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women — close to 100 percent — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.

While the tests are optional, the government states that all expectant mothers must be informed about availability of screening tests, which reveal the likelihood of a child being born with Down syndrome. Around 80 to 85 percent of pregnant women choose to take the prenatal screening test, according to Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik.

Using an ultrasound, blood test and the mother’s age, the test, called the Combination Test, determines whether the fetus will have a chromosome abnormality, the most common of which results in Down syndrome. Children born with this genetic disorder have distinctive facial issues and a range of developmental issues. Many people born with Down syndrome can live full, healthy lives, with an average lifespan of around 60 years.

With a population of around 330,000, Iceland has on average just one or two children born with Down syndrome per year, sometimes after their parents received inaccurate test results.

And while Iceland is witnessing Down syndrome children disappear from their landscape of life, I was shocked to read the statistics about such “termination rates” in other “civilized,” first-world nations:

According to the most recent data available, the United States has an estimated termination rate for Down syndrome of 67 percent (1995-2011); in France it’s 77 percent (2015); and Denmark, 98 percent (2015). The law in Iceland permits abortion after 16 weeks if the fetus has a deformity — and Down syndrome is included in this category.

Geneticist Kari Stefansson offers his thoughts on his nation’s “progress,” observing that this is not just a medical decision being made. But if not medical, what? Something… moral? :

“My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society — that there is hardly ever a child with Down syndrome in Iceland anymore,” he said.

Quijano asked Stefansson, “What does the 100 percent termination rate, you think, reflect about Icelandic society?”

“It reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling,” he said. “And I don’t think that heavy-handed genetic counseling is desirable. … You’re having impact on decisions that are not medical, in a way.”

Stefansson noted, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with aspiring to have healthy children, but how far we should go in seeking those goals is a fairly complicated decision.”

Of course this compels one to ask, indeed, where does it end? And who gets to play God and decide how far is too far? But seemingly, for the vast majority of the people in Iceland, this quest to eradicate Downs syndrome births children has little to do with morality. At least that’s what they tell themselves. Consider counselor Helga Sol Olafsdottir, whom women turn to when discussing what they should do when they are informed that a chromosomal abnormality has been discovered:

Olafsdottir tells women who are wrestling with the decision or feelings of guilt: “This is your life — you have the right to choose how your life will look like.”

She showed Quijano a prayer card inscribed with the date and tiny footprints of a fetus that was terminated.

Quijano noted, “In America, I think some people would be confused about people calling this ‘our child,’ saying a prayer or saying goodbye or having a priest come in — because to them abortion is murder.”

Olafsdottir responded, “We don’t look at abortion as a murder. We look at it as a thing that we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication… preventing suffering for the child and for the family. And I think that is more right than seeing it as a murder — that’s so black and white. Life isn’t black and white. Life is grey.”

Eliminating the existence of Down syndrome births, hence babies, children and adults is the natural outcome of such a rationalization. If it isn’t seen as the engineered murder of one deemed less than acceptable, and seen only as a “possible life,” and an imperfect one at that, then it becomes quite easy to kill.

I once spent a short, precious amount of time in the presence of a lovely couple who unexpectedly found themselves thrust into one of those gray areas of which Olafsdottir speaks, and yet they didn’t hesitate to choose life. They did so because they believed that the unique individual the wife carried was fearfully and wonderfully made, and that they had been specifically chosen to provide the necessary arms of love to hold, the tender hearts to nurture, and the courage required for the special baby she carried. The reward of their chosen “suffering,” they would insist to Olafsdottir, was to experience a joy so profound that they never looked back with regret at choosing to bring that which was deemed imperfect into this world and into their lives. Because in his own unique way, their son brought a different kind of perfect to them: the kind that is seen in big, wide-open bursts of love offered to strangers.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

Economic Trumpism: Kurt Schlichter’s Plan to Regulate Google Into Submission

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:30 am

At Townhall.com, Kurt Schlichter has a piece titled Conservatives Must Regulate Google And All of Silicon Valley Into Submission. The piece captures the spirit of Trumpism admirably, by turning a company’s ability to engage in free enterprise into a privilege that can and should be withheld when the company does something to tick off someone in power.

What follows is a respectful fisking of Schlichter’s piece. (No, not a fisting. I said “fisking.”)

Schlichter starts by citing the actions of Google in firing James Damore — a firing that most conservatives agree (I think) was wrong:

Google’s fascist witch-burning of an honest engineer for refusing to bow down at the altar of politically correct lies was the final straw, an unequivocal warning to conservatives that there’s a new set of rules, and that we need to play by them. First they came for the tech geeks; we’re next. That means Republicans at both the federal and the state level need to rein in the skinny-jeaned fascist social justice warriors who control Silicon Valley – and, to a growing extent, our society – through the kind of crushing regulation of these private business that we conservatives used to oppose.

What sort of regulation does Schlichter have in mind? Well, the specific nature of the regulation is almost beside the point, actually. Schlichter’s central argument here is: we have government power and we should use it against these tech companies because they are leftists. As always, when people on the right propose doing something immoral, the justification offered is: the left did it first!

Yeah, I know that heavily regulating private businesses is not “free enterprise,” but I don’t care. See, “free enterprise” is a bargain, and they didn’t keep their part of it, and I see no moral obligation for us to be played for saps and forgo using our political power to protect our interests in the face of them using theirs to disembowel us. I liked the old rules better – a free enterprise system confers huge benefits – but it was the left that chose to nuke them.

If I wanted to distill economic Trumpism to a single phrase, I could not do better than: “This is not free enterprise, but I don’t care.” It is Trump’s answer to companies that threaten to lower their costs (and thus prices to consumers) by moving portions of their operations overseas. It is Trump’s answer to foreign countries who provide cheap and plentiful goods to our citizens. The hidden assumption here is that the companies are the principal actors that benefit from free enterprise.

The assumption is false, though. The primary beneficiaries of free enterprise are consumers. We don’t reject socialism primarily because it hurts companies. We reject socialism because it is ruinous to the consumer. It makes the average person’s life far worse. And capitalism makes the average person’s life better.

Schlichter’s suggested retaliatory act #1 is to break up the companies because they’re “too darn big.” The idea of threatening to use antitrust laws to break up a company because you don’t like its political message is, of course, not new with Schlichter. President Trump himself has threatened to do the same to Amazon as retaliation for things said about him in the Washington Post. But monopolies are good — as long as they are formed through free enterprise, and not through government privilege. If you don’t understand this, I won’t convince you in a short blog post. It requires a more extensive discussion of the nature of free enterprise and consumer choice. You can start your education by clicking the link just provided and reading Leonard Read on the subject.

Let’s move on to Schlichter’s suggested retaliatory act #2:

[W]e need legislation – at both the federal and individual red state levels – that will impose staggering, gut-wrenching monetary penalties for not only the active misuse of this information, but even for the mere failure to safeguard it – any failure to safeguard it. If the info gets out, Google gets slammed – hard. Call it the Citizens’ Data Protection Act – gosh, who could oppose protecting citizens’ data? – and impose huge civil and even criminal penalties for any disclosure of private information about a private citizen. Yes, that’s a strict liability standard – if a citizen’s information gets out for any reason, Google pays through the nose regardless of fault. Now there’s an incentive to make sure our data is secure.

Holy unintended consequences, Batman! As with the rest of the piece, I’m not 100% sure if Schlichter is actually serious or not. But if he is, his piece does not take into account the likely reaction of any tech company facing such a regulation, and how that would affect us. Would you provide an email service if this rule existed, making possible ruinous sanctions against your company? No, you wouldn’t. If such a rule were promulgated, say goodbye to email. At a minimum, email would become so expensive and burdensome to use that most people would go back to snail mail, which would be a body blow to the economy.

Also from the “unintended consequences” pile comes this idea:

[H]ow about the Algorithm Transparency Act, a law that bans these big Internet companies from putting their fingers on the scale of discourse and requires them to make available online all of their operating algorithms?

Do I really have to explain the incentive-smashing character of this proposed regulation? Or what it would do to your daily life if companies faced such a regulation? Incentives matter. Take away a company’s incentive to do any act, and the company will not do that act. And the algorithms Schlichter is citing here make all our lives better in countless ways that we have come to take for granted. We assume companies will continue to work to improve our lives.

Not if we try to ruin them because we don’t like their politics.

Again, perhaps the column is meant as pure “let’s smash the left” entertainment, and Schlichter doesn’t really mean any of it. The problem is, Trump’s protectionism and proposed retaliation against companies is no joke — and people still seem to support it. So, joke or no, it pays dividends to actually stop and think about the effect that the regulations proposed in this column would have.

If you don’t like the politics of Google or Facebook, don’t threaten them with government power. Go start a competitor with more conservative politics. And don’t whine about how that’s impossible. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates didn’t whine about how IBM was a behemoth that could never be supplanted. They just went out and created companies that supplanted it.

Go and do likewise, gents. The money’s out there. You pick it up, it’s yours.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Next Page »

Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.2160 secs.