Thursday, October 30, 2008
Some questions about the coming Age of Obama:
Will the mass media have the desire or the ability to step back from being a cheering section, a kind of Pravda, having transformed themselves over the past eight years into the partisan equivalent of the controlled press in a not-free country?
Will the tempremental extremism that have been evident over the past eight years among many, many people who used to be conventional liberals or centre-left people - will it recede when it is rewarded with sweeping power?
Will there be any reluctance to try to reproduce the one-party campus in the country as a whole?
After the Communists crushed a workers' uprising in East Germany in 1953, Bertolt Brecht famously asked whether it wouldn't be easier for the government to dissolve the people and elect another. That thought may recur over the next few years.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Todd Zywicki sees the light. Let's go with disaster all the way!
But as I've looked at the actual policy positions of the two more closely, it seems to me that Obama really seems to be pretty far out there. He is no Bill Clinton. And from what I can tell none of those libertarians or conservatives who are Obama supporters are attracted to because of his positions (other than those who care strongly about the Iraq war and foreign policy), but rather because of who he is. Obama is a compelling personality.
a) More objective than essay exams
b) Easier to grade
c) fairer to students
Well, this is dumb and annoying. It is surprising and annoying that "Joe the Plumber" was put through media investigation just for querying Obama on his tax plan. That was a bad thing. Shouldn't somebody be able to question Obama in public without having all their dirty laundry aired? Especially given that the MSM has hardly covered itself in glory telling us all about say, Obama's career in Chicago. The MSM has given Palin a hard time. And the blogosphere has been positively scurrilous towards her, especially The Atlantic and Andrew Sullivan. The idea that contemporary American liberalism is the philosophy of cultural elitism is not made up. Cultural elites are overwhelmingly Democratic. Some of the attacks on Palin have been the merest snobbery and a fair bit of it has been positively offensive. Granted, she can be remarkably inarticulate, but so can most people when a microphone is put in their face. All of this has nothing to do with the young woman who fabricated an attack on herself by an Obama supporter. I guess the idea is that the lattermost attack was a fantasy and so sort of were the former. But the problem is, the former complaints are warranted.
This statement by John Malone about media bias has gotten a lot of play. Of course, one can easily find evidence of bias just by reading the newspaper. Tonight, I looked at the New York Times website. On a day when the Dow went up nearly 11 percent, the Times has nothing on the front page of the website on it. If one clicks to the Business Section, they do have a story, with the headline: "Even as Dow Soars 11%, Skeptics Lurk."
People have been debating how important the media bias is. Count me in the group who says, "very important." I won't try to defend that claim here. But I think it is clearly true.
So the question is, is there a solution to the problem? And you know what, there is a simple solution -- one that might not entirely cure the problem, but would go enormous steps towards constraining it.
It is regulation of the composition of media employees based on political views. My guess is that the New York Times has about 80 to 90 percent Democrats. Simply require that there be an even number of Republicans and Democrats at the Times. Yes, there are all kinds of complications, but put those to the side. They are details that can be addressed.
If the Commanding Heights of our information society had to be half conservative and half liberal, there would be much less liberal bias. The usual arguments for integration would apply here. Conservatives would have much more power to stop the bias. Moreover, the fact that they were present in the newsrooms would make it harder for liberals to get away with biased claims without being challenged.
Of course, many readers may say, "you have got to be kidding. That would interfere with the First Amendment and would have many of the same problems as other similar types of regulations, like affirmative action."
Well, maybe. But at least recognize this. If the bias were conservative bias instead of liberal bias, there is no doubt that liberals would be arguing for something like this. How do I know? Because they do it all of the time. In academia and other places, racial or gender "imbalance" leads to strong calls for affirmative action. More importantly, when conservatives appear to have an advantage in an area of the media, like talk radio, many liberals call for the Fairness Doctrine (which is very similar to my proposal). Just think about that. We are witnesses tremendous liberal bias in favor of Obama, and liberals want to regulate conservative talk radio, while leaving the Commanding Heights of the information society -- where they dominate -- unrestricted. Just amazing.
Update: Some people seem to be missing my meaning here. My subtitle of "A Modest Proposal" is a reference to Jonathan Swift's satirical essay "where he suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies." My point in making this proposal is not to actually recommend it, but to point out that it would address the bias problem and that liberals would go for this type of thing if the shoe were on the other foot.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I had forgotten my friend and coauthor, John McGinnis, had written about Charles Fried's political expediency at the expense of principle when he served as Solicitor General in the Justice Department:
In the first two paragraphs of his book review of Fried's book on his experiences at the Justice Department, John writes:
In Order and Law, Fried tends to slide from principle to principle in order to position himself politically midway between his liberal critics outside the Administration and his more conservative colleagues within. Nowhere is this tendency more evident than in his discussions of his role as Solicitor General. For instance, Fried defends a brief he filed urging the Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade as grounded in jurisprudence rather than politics. "[T]he merits of the right-to-life versus freedom-of-choice [policy] dispute" were not relevant to his legal analysis. Less than a page later, Fried proudly recounts a victory over people in the Justice Department whom he labels the "federalism police." The "federalism police" argued that states were free to impose additional penalties for federal labor violations, despite the existence of federal labor laws. Fried favored preemption, because "leaving the states free to do as they liked posed a greater threat of overregulation than did giving precedence to federal law." Thus Fried avoids analyzing the doctrinal and jurisprudential issues presented in the case (such as federalism and the scope of preemption) by appealing to precisely the kind of policy decision (expansive vs. limited labor regulation) that he claimed to eschew in the abortion case.
I was actually one of those "federalism police," and I remember Fried's antics well.
I highly recommend McGinnis's review in the Stanford Law Review.
Monday, October 27, 2008