URLs du Jour

2017-10-26

Still avoid . . .

Proverbs 19:8 is sunnily optimistic about the fruits of knowledge acquisition:

8 The one who gets wisdom loves life;
    the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

Corollaries: If you don't love life, you are a fool; if you haven't prospered yet, you don't adequately cherish understanding. Keep trying, though.


Power Line asks the musical question: What is the ACLU prepared to do to defend free speech on campus?. As we mentioned a few weeks back, Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the Virginia ACLU, was shouted down by Progressive students when she attempted to speak at William & Mary. Disgusting, and…

After Gastañaga was shouted down, she issued a statement on behalf of the ACLU of Virginia. The statement declared that “disruption that prevents a speaker from speaking, and audience members from hearing the speaker, is not constitutionally protected speech even on a public college campus subject to the First Amendment” but instead is “a classic example of a heckler’s veto.” It also stated that actions on campus “that bully, intimidate or disrupt must not be without consequences. . .” and that “a public college like William and Mary has an obligation to protect the freedom of the speaker to speak. . .”

Not long afterwards, however, the ACLU chapter removed this language. The watered-down version doesn’t even mention the Constitution or the First Amendment, except in identifying the topic of Gastañaga’s suppressed talk.

Yes, the Virginia ACLU decided that its original hearty defense of free speech needed to be toned down a bit.

Maybe they should change their name.


[Amazon Link] If you don't subscribe to Reason (you should, though), Deirdre Nansen McCloskey's essay from the November issue is online, and a lot of fun: Max Weber Was Wrong

Max Weber, the north German economist, proud reserve officer in the Kaiser's army, literal dueler with academic opponents, and co-founder of modern sociology, sits on every college reading list for his 1905 book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. If you didn't read it in college, it's time to turn off the TV, Google it, and do so. It's a stunning performance, one of my top 100 nonfiction books of the 20th century. The book is brilliant, readable, short. (By the way, henceforth you should exhibit your sophistication by pronouncing his name correctly. It's "VAY-ber," not like the "WEB-er" hamburger grill you've just put away for the year. You get extra points for saying "Max" in echt deutsch: "Maahx," not like "Mad Max.")

OK, one more quote:

But that a book is "great" does not mean it is correct, or is to be taken as good history or good economics or good theology. Marx's Das Kapital is indubitably a great book, one of the very greatest of the 19th century, as I say to annoyed friends of libertarian or conservative bent. But then I say to my left-wing friends, annoying them too, that Marx was wrong on almost every point of economics, history, and politics. Which is why I haven't got any friends.

I probably won't be reading Weber or Marx, because life is too short. But I heartily recommend McCloskey.


■ At the Federalist, David Harsanyi says We’re About To Find Out If Democrats Really Care About Russian Interference. (Spoiler: they do not.)

If we found out that Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee had paid a firm working for the Russians to create a file of fabricated attacks on Hillary Clinton during the election, would the media treat it as an impeachable offense? Would such efforts be considered an attack on the foundations of our democracy? Would liberal columnists make sensationalistic claims that the Russians had “carried out a successful plan to pick the government of the United States”? Would they argue that the election had been rigged? Would they demand that Republicans pick their country over their party?

Of course they would.

While Democrats are falling all over themselves praising the "courage" of Senator Jeff Flake, have you seen any of them getting even slightly perturbed about this? Let me know if so, but until then I'll assume they're all simply cowardly weasels.

[Note: I like Jeff Flake, who was tied for ninth on the Club For Growth's 2016 Senate scorecard. His replacement almost certainly won't score as well. But I despise the Democrat/MSM phony "strange new respect" for him.]


■ At Cato, David Boaz wishes a happy 250th birthday to Benjamin Constant, Eloquent Defender of Freedom. Some paragraphs from an 1833 speech:

First ask yourselves, Gentlemen, what an Englishman, a Frenchman, and a citizen of the United States of America understand today by the word “liberty.”

For each of them it is the right to be subjected only to the laws, and to be neither arrested, detained, put to death or maltreated in any way by the arbitrary will of one or more individuals. It is the right of everyone to express their opinion, choose a profession and practice it, to dispose of property, and even to abuse it; to come and go without permission, and without having to account for their motives or undertakings.

It is everyone’s right to associate with other individuals, either to discuss their interests, or to profess the religion which they and their associates prefer, or even simply to occupy their days or hours in a way which is most compatible with their inclinations or whims.

Finally it is everyone’s right to exercise some influence on the administration of the government, either by electing all or particular officials, or through representations, petitions, demands to which the authorities are more or less compelled to pay heed.

Monsieur, nous pourrions à nouveau utiliser un homme comme Benjamin Constant. [At least according to Google Translate.]


■ We dropped the ball on keeping tabs on all the criticisms of Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains. Because, as Hillary said in a far less honest context: "What difference, at this point, does it make?" Once you get up to a few dozen lies, mistakes, and obfuscations, does it matter when people keep finding dozens more?

Well, let's let Brian Doherty, at Reason, bring us up to date: Just How Much Did Nancy MacLean Get Wrong?.

Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains, an error-filled screed against Nobel Prize–winning economist James Buchanan, is one of five finalists for a National Book Award.

Wow, just like Michael A. Bellesiles' Arming America won the Bancroft Prize. For a while?

Is that honor deserved? It is worth considering, as the award's nominators did not, that nearly every reviewer with actual independent knowledge about her book's topics has pointed out a startling range of errors of citation, interpretation, narrative, and fact. (This includes my own review in the October Reason, in which I demonstrate that a central element of her historical narrative—that in the 1990s Buchanan's ideas became the secret influence behind the political machine run by billionaire Charles Koch—is based on an absurd and unsupportable reading of the only textual evidence she offers.) MacLean still refuses to engage any of her critics on points of substance.

I wonder if the National Book Award awarders will beclown themselves. I guess we'll find out next month.