Born This Way?
While Jonathan Haidt’s research is interesting, he missed the core of the problem (“Born This Way?” May). “The most basic of all ideological questions” is not “should we preserve the present order or change it?” Rather it is: How much force will we initiate to shape government, society, and the world to fit our own personal wills?
Haidt gets close to this issue when he observes, “Morality binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle.” More important, the fate of every individual can be seriously altered by these battles. Government achieves essentially unfettered power to initiate force, injuring or destroying some to benefit others. It’s the natural course of democracy, which will get nastier and bloodier every day—unless and until we stop initiating political force.
Bradford L. Warren
Fixing the Unbroken Internet
“Fixing the Unbroken Internet” (May) properly points out that under (voided) 1996 legislation, “a minor could buy [Howard] Stern’s book, Miss America, in a store, but ‘if that same youngster reads a profanity-laced quote from the book on the Internet [the person who posted it] could go to the slammer.” But the piece then attempts to extend the concept invalidly, describing 2011 congressional bills as renewed efforts to give “the government broad power to censor the Internet.” No mention is made of legitimate concerns that gave rise to the bills.
If a boatload of unauthorized DVDs of movies currently in first-run theatrical release arrived at an American port, U.S. Customs could seize them as contraband. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) bills were intended to parallel this function in the virtual world, so that foreign- origin Internet packets could be stopped at the U.S. border. SOPA and PIPA were troublesome not in aim but in overkill.
David P. Hayes
Correction: Dirty Harry’s weapon of choice was a .44 Magnum, not a .357 Magnum (“The Gun Explosion,” May).
[Haidt] is not a libertarian, but a liberal who has come to appreciate some aspects of libertarian thought. I think his theory could use a bit of work, but the fact that he is actually trying to understand is worth encouraging. The old political divisions are being altered, and a lot of liberals are going to be looking for a new home—perhaps it would be good to help them understand alternative views.
—reason online commenter “Alan” in response to “Born This Way?” (May)
As far as I can tell, there are three options for approaches to civic life:
1. Live and let live
2. All for one and one for all
3. In God we trust
It really is that simple.
—reason online commenter “KPres” in response to “Born This Way?”
Matt Welch has a nice essay, “Why Big Government Is Offensive” (May). It is not a new point, but is well-made and deserves to be reiterated often: the more government does, the more it offends basic values; words to keep in mind as we head into the election season.
—Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett, writing at the Volokh Conspiracy blog