Going Over the Basics. Again.

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Jeff Maurer observes that We Seem to Be Re-Learning Free Speech Principles From Scratch.

Well, some of us.

Watching the United States — the home of the First Amendment — struggle to respond to student protests has been like watching Albert Einstein struggle to complete the “get Grimace to the fries” maze on the back of a Happy Meal. How did we get here? How did things devolve so badly that pretty-straight-forward free speech issues are treated like unsolvable puzzles? I’m one of those highly punchable “it’s complicated” dweebs, but for once, I’m singing a different tune: This is actually not that complicated. As political issues go, determining which rights protesters do and don’t have is basically a layup. The fact that we are not only missing that metaphorical layup, but also having our pants fall down, soiling ourselves, and yelling “Mommy, help!” as the ball clanks off the bottom of the rim demonstrates how badly our institutional knowledge of free speech has degraded.

The first important principle is that in America, you’re allowed to say offensive and dumb stuff. Some protesters have, without a doubt, taken “offensive” and “dumb” to bold new horizons. I wrote last week about how the written down and frequently reiterated position of some of the main protest groups is that Israel has no right to exist (the main group at Columbia put that idea in writing again on Monday). If you’re looking for offensive speech, these protests have got you covered: They are to horrific statements what Hickory Farms is to smoked cheese in baskets.

Congratulations to Jeff for avoiding bad words in his first two paragraphs.

Also of note:

  • Also going over the basics, again: Rachel Lu. Who's bemused by Hayek Among the Post-Liberals.

    I first picked up F. A. Hayek sometime around 2010. Everyone was doing it; it was the right’s Hayekian moment. I had not had occasion to read Hayek, having written my dissertation on Scholasticism. I was unable to find a Latin translation of The Road to Serfdom, so I had to settle for reading it in my native language, but I still managed to capture a bit of the heady sensation of stepping into a different world. Hayek introduced me to the logic of limited government. I still think he is as good an introduction as one can find, at least for readers too mature to be delighted by John Galt.

    We are now living through a profoundly un-Hayekian moment on the right. The battle between liberals and post-liberals rages on with no real sign of abating. The Road to Serfdom turned 80 this year, and Hayek’s fans noted the occasion, but much of the right today has become accustomed to talking as though Hayek, and classical liberalism generally, is archaic or discredited. The Hayekian moment feels like ancient history.

    It’s not, though. Hayek used to be cool. Today my enduring fondness for him marks me clearly as a rotting-flesh Reaganite, but in fact, I originally cracked the cover only to please my populist interlocutors, years after Reagan was cold in his grave. It really makes one think about the dizzying progression of fads American conservatism has been through in the twenty-first century. The volatility is depressing, and yet there is an interesting sense in which conservatism has been mapping the road to serfdom, exploring its highways and byways by aggressively testing the limits of Hayekian reasoning. I’m not sure we’ve found them yet, but we may have learned some things along the way.

    It has been a long time since Maggie Thatcher removed a copy of Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty from her handbag, slammed it on the conference table, and declared "This is what we believe."

    We could use that again.

  • After the election, he'll have more flexibility. Apparently, higher-ups decided having a bunch of cranky Black voters denied their nicotine delivery system of choice would be a bad idea. The NR editors chronicle Biden’s Menthol-Ban Backpedal.

    It has been a goal of progressives for years to ban smoking. Not quite able to convince enough people to go all the way, they have settled for piecemeal measures, such as banning smoking in public places or raising excise taxes on tobacco products.

    One of those piecemeal measures was supposed to be banning menthol cigarettes. This measure was exigent because it was also anti-racist, progressives said. Menthols are popular among black smokers, so banning them would help improve disparate racial health outcomes, the argument goes.

    Like many “anti-racist” arguments, this one sounds more racist the more you think about it. Not being able to ban a product in general but settling for only banning the version of it popular with black people doesn’t put very much faith in the decision-making abilities of black people, who are fully capable of evaluating their decisions just like anyone else.

    If you'd like to see the Progressive Future, let me point (again) to the Tobacco-, Smoke-, & Nicotine-Free Policy of the University Near Here. Excerpt:

    The TSN-Free policy applies to all University of New Hampshire facilities, property, and vehicles, owned, or leased, regardless of location. Smoking and the use of tobacco products shall be prohibited in any enclosed place, including, but not limited to, all offices, classrooms, hallways, waiting rooms, restrooms, meeting rooms, community areas, performance venues and private residential space within UNH housing. TSN products shall also be prohibited outdoors on all UNH campus property, including, but not limited to, parking lots, paths, fields, sports/recreational areas, and stadiums, as well as in all personal vehicles while on campus. This policy applies to all students, faculty, staff, and other persons on campus, regardless of the purpose for their visit.

    Gee, do you think they forgot anything?

  • Best headline of the day. The award goes to Virginia Postrel: TMI and Monsters from the Id.

    My friend and former Chapman University colleague John Thrasher recently introduced me to the concept of pluralistic ignorance. This is a social science term describing situations in which individuals know their own thoughts and behaviors but assume most people are different, when in fact they aren’t. The classic example is college students who don’t drink that much themselves but assume their classmates are always getting drunk, when those others also drink moderately.

    John’s twist is to suggest that the breakdown of pluralistic ignorance explains the recent erosion of political and social norms of behavior—an erosion so extensive that “conservative Christians” who once upheld traditional norms of propriety in family and business life now avidly support Donald Trump, who is proud to be an unscrupulous operator and a serial adulterer.

    VP assumes a certain amount of cultural literacy. You probably know about "TMI". But "monsters from the id"? I have a soft spot there, the very first movie I saw in a theater in Oakland, Iowa. And as a five-year-old in 1956, it scared the crap out of me.

  • We shouldn't wait until he double dares us. Do it now! Jimmy Quinn paid attention to what a UN official said, and it is glorious: U.N. Official Dares America to Slash Its Budgetary Contribution.

    On Wednesday, the United Nations’ top human-rights official, Volker Türk, practically dared Congress to slash America’s massive contribution to the U.N.’s main budgetary fund, called the regular budget, when he spoke out about “a series of heavy-handed steps taken to disperse and dismantle protests” across U.S. college campuses. He expressed concern that law enforcement was using force in a disproportionate way.

    Obviously, anyone is entitled to his view on the anti-Israel college demonstrations and steps taken by university administrations and law enforcement in response, no matter how ridiculous.

    But Türk’s statement — in his official capacity as the U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights — is an abuse of authority that won’t go over well in Washington.

    Or in New Hampshire.