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The Latest Excuse for Curbing Free Speech? ISIS.

Law professor Eric Posner never misses a chance to scaremonger for limits on free expression.

Eric Posner is making quite the name for himself as one of free speech's mostFree speech will kill us all.Dreamstime/Alexskopje virulent critics. The University of Chicago law professor appears to have an inexhaustible supply of rationalizations for why free expression must be policed by a benevolent government entity, one that will always share the same values and sensibilities deemed righteous by himself.

In Slate, Posner writes that the "unprecedented threat" of ISIS using the internet to propagandize and recruit "calls for new thinking about limits on freedom of speech." His reasoning for for the abandonment of one of civilization's most sacred values and the enemy of despots and psychotic religious zealots worldwide? A New York Times profile on Ali Amin, a 17 year-old Virginia kid who "exchanged messages with other supporters and members" of ISIS. Though Amin was convicted of providing material support for terrorism, he never committed any acts of violence. He merely just drove an ISIS recruit to the airport and offered advice on how to transfer funds.

It's good that Amin, an active enabler of ISIS, was taken out of circulation. It's even better that we didn't have to shred the Constitution to put him in prison. But that's not enough for Posner, because "Amin did not start out as a jihadi; he was made into one."

The law professor seems to be suggesting that some jihadis are born that way, but if we wanted to be generous and chalk that up to clumsy writing, how would Posner's plan for protecting us from the "unprecedented" threat of people with bad ideas and violent intentions work in practice?

Here's the details:

Consider a law that makes it a crime to access websites that glorify, express support for, or provide encouragement for ISIS or support recruitment by ISIS; to distribute links to those websites or videos, images, or text taken from those websites; or to encourage people to access such websites by supplying them with links or instructions. Such a law would be directed at people like Amin: naïve people, rather than sophisticated terrorists, who are initially driven by curiosity to research ISIS on the Web.

The law would provide graduated penalties. After the first violation, a person would receive a warning letter from the government; subsequent violations would result in fines or prison sentences. The idea would be to get out the word that looking at ISIS-related websites, like looking at websites that display child pornography, is strictly forbidden. As word spread, people like Amin would be discouraged from searching for ISIS-related websites and perhaps be spared radicalization and draconian punishment for more serious terrorism-related crimes.

Posner admits this very polite exercise in thought-policing would not "would not deter sophisticated terrorists who send one another encrypted messages," i.e., the terrorists most likely to kill people, but that "laws directed at this behavior would make a dent in recruitment."

A "dent in recruitment." That's a pretty low return on investment, given what's being sacrificed. 

In exactly one sentence, Posner pays lip service to the fact that the US has "overreacted" to perceived threats in the past. Though he never gets into specifics, he refers to the World War I-era crackdown on "dissenters who merely criticized the war and were not spreading German propaganda or trying to recruit agents."

Those dissenters were Socialist Party activists protesting what they believed was a misbegotten and immoral war. Their convictions under the Espionage Act were upheld by the Supreme Court, when Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously made his "fire in a crowded theater" analogy regarding free speech, which is still cited as a means of quelling unpopular opinions to this day. When Posner inevitably writes another anti-free speech jeremiad, he might want to clarify whether or not he believes imprisoning non-violent anti-war protesters is an "overreaction" or a justified move by a responsible government during a time of "national emergency."

Not content with handing over the legality of unpopular beliefs to unnamed agents of the state, Posner repackages familiar arguments once used against violent video games that the technological advances in ISIS' propaganda make their videos more seductive and irresistible to "naive" recruits. To drive this point home, Posner revisits the argument he made in the wake of the 2012 attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, when the Obama administration and illiberal Western liberals made false and tortured arguments that the attack was "sparked" by the no-budget Youtube video Innocence of Muslims

Then, as now, Posner argues that speech must have "value" to be deserving of protection:

The major justification for freedom of speech is the marketplace of ideas—the claim that if people can say whatever they want, the best ideas will flourish. But just what is it that we can learn from ISIS? The social value of beheading apostates? The finer points of crucifixion? Those who regard free speech as fundamental need to consider whether legal principles that arose centuries ago make sense in the age of Snapchat.

University of Iowa law professor Paul Gowder pours cold water on Posner's unhinged characterization of ISIS as an existential threat to the US by noting that about 7 Americans per year have been killed by terrorism over the past decade (and not all of the terrorists have been Muslims). Just as pertinently, Gowder takes down Posner's suggested law to criminalize websites that "glorify" ISIS: 

First, that would be a totally unworkable law even if it weren’t for the standard moralconstitutional, and prudential objections to censoring political speech.

Do we really want courts deciding what “glorifies” or “expresses support for” ISIS? Do we want the local Assistant U.S. Attorney choosing who gets prosecuted for this? How about the kind of surveillance it would take to enforce it — do you want the federal government watching every website you access?

In a very funny and usefully fact-based blog post, Popehat's Ken White aptly describes Posner as "well-cast as the First Amendment's nemesis: he represents everything it stands against. He represents obeisance to passing tastes about what is couth, clenched fists of power disguised as helping hands, suppression dressed up as order."

White then presents a guide of the anti-free expression villainy personified by Posner, including the professor's support for anti-blasphemy laws which in practice are really just "tools for religious majorities to oppress minorities," tortured arguments in favor of speech codes on college campuses because young adults of legal age "must be protected like children while being prepared to be adults," and true to Posner's unwavering belief in shadowy government forces who could never abuse their authority, a spirited defense of the NSA's mass collection of metadata

Regarding the speech codes on college campuses so adored by the paternalistic Posner, a student at George Washington University (GWU) was recently ordered by campus police to remove a Palestinian flag from his dorm window after another student complained and an adminstrator told him the flag was not "respectful" of his peers. If the goal is maximum safety, including emotional safety, and such a flag offends someone or conjures images of Hamas suicide bombings, who is Posner to object? Or would he call this an "overreaction?"

Reason TV covered the GWU-Palestinian flag kerfuffle in a video you can watch below:

Photo Credit: Dreamstime/Alexskopje

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  • Citizen X||

    Yo, fuck Eric Posner.

  • Swiss Servator||

    Yeah, fuck off, Professor Slaver.

  • Lee G||

    I hear Eric Posner subscribes to Jihad Weekly.

  • Citizen X||

    I hear Eric Posner did so much coke in the '80s, his nipples turned into scabs and fell off.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I hear Eric Posner is aroused by SugarFree's writing.

  • Citizen X||

    I hear Eric Posner doesn't like music.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I hear Eric Posner double-dips chips.

  • Zunalter||

    I hear Eric Posner doesn't understand all the hype surrounding Game of Thrones.

  • Free Society||

    That's like putting your whole mouth right in the dip!

  • Citizen X||

    I hear Eric Posner has never smiled.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I hear Eric Posner preferred the remake of Point Break.

  • Idle Hands||

    I hear Posner pees sitting down.

  • Zunalter||

    I hear Eric Posner kicks puppies.

  • Loki||

    I hear if you say his 3 times in front of a mirror in a darkened room he'll appear and shoot you in the face.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    I would have thought he was anti-gun, and doesn't know anyone who voted for Nixon.

  • Citizen X||

    I hear Eric Posner lost his masturbation virginity in the bathroom at Comicon in 2011.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    I hear Eric Posner doesn't like woodchippers.

  • Citizen X||

    I hear Eric Posner hangs out at abortion clinics to try to pick up women. "You know THOSE girls put out," i hear Eric Posner has been known to say.

    I hear Eric Posner has never once been successful.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I hear Eric Posner dances like everyone is watching.

  • Zunalter||

    I hear Eric Posner doesn't signal before changing lanes while driving.

  • Citizen X||

    I hear Eric Posner survived his own abortion, and his mom has had a restraining order on him since he was 3.

  • Free Society||

    I hear Eric Posner was the 17 year old girl that Subway Jared traveled across state lines to bang.

  • Zunalter||

    I hear Eric Posner encourages children to run with scissors.

  • Citizen X||

    I hear Eric Posner puts rat poison in his neighbors' birdfeeders.

  • SQRLSY One||

    I hear that Eric Posner admires Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Bernie Sanders, and The Donald.

  • ||

    The major justification for freedom of speech is the marketplace of ideas—the claim that if people can say whatever they want, the best ideas will flourish. But just what is it that we can learn from ISIS? The social value of beheading apostates? The finer points of crucifixion? Those who regard free speech as fundamental need to consider whether legal principles that arose centuries ago make sense in the age of Snapchat.

    Impressive nonsense. First, what on earth does the last sentence have to do with the others?

    But also, dear Posner, what value does your speech have, exactly?

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    I'd say that ISIS' speech has tremendous value.

    It helps us identify a source of rotten ideas and (arguably) serves as a reductio ad absurdum of Islam's precepts, allowing an otherwise unbiased person to come away with a reasonable bias against Islam as a system of ideas and concepts.

    I'd much rather ISIS' speech existed than its actions, myself -- the former is beneficial in exposing a horrible religious ideology while harming none; the latter does nothing *but* harm others.

  • ||

    "the former is beneficial in exposing a horrible religious ideology while harming none; the latter does nothing *but* harm others."

    ^ ThisThisThisThisThisThis

    This is EXACTLY the most compelling argument in favor of free speech.

  • R C Dean||

    Free speech should be protected so that idiots can publicly self-identify.

    Yeah, I'm looking at you, Posner.

  • ||

    Yes - Lord knows the Republicans have *never* implied that criticism of them is treasonous!

  • ||

    I was recalling the Bush II era most specifically. People tend to notice speech suppression most when it's their own ideas being suppressed. Others less so.

  • ||

    "Free Speech Zones" along with the ubiquitous suggestions that people who criticized the administration's policies were giving aid and comfort to our enemies. You know, the actual definition of treason?

    I don't believe the current administration has actually brought people up on charges and jailed them either, just the same sort of "suggestions" that free speech is "dangerous."

  • Not okay||

    The left is pretty openly against the first amendment and have enacted hate speech laws in other countries and are trying to do so here. To think this is equivalent is delusional.

  • ||

    The comment I was responding to asserted that it is *always* the left that wants to limit free speech.

    I asserted that this is untrue. But you are free to take your own personal goalposts wherever you want them to be.

    Lining up one Team's offenses against the other's in some effort to find "equality" is a serious waste of time.

  • Zeb||

    But please go ahead and bring up flag-burning from the 90's....

    Don't forget obscenity prosecutions. But it is true that today most calls for limiting free expression come from the left.

  • ||

    Read Scalia's opinion.

  • Joe Blowski||

    like when those libtards wanted to make a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag burning? or when they campaigned to increase penalties for obscenity in the 1980s? or when they targeted gay rights activists with anti-obscenity laws in the 1970s. or the sedition act of 1918. blah blah blah.

  • brokencycle||

    100% agree. Horrible speech is an essential part of life and important for building critical thinking skills. Look at what is happening to all these whiny kids today when they get to college and everything doesn't fit their bubble: they can't handle it.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Whiney kids today?!

    Eric Posner's 50 years old!

  • brokencycle||

    No shit. My comment has nothing to do with Posner. It has to do with the natural outcomes of policies that Posner supports.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    I was making a bit of a joke. My point is that Posner has effectively outed himself as just one of those whiney kids.

  • ||

    Ya, I think your point goes exactly to the "marketplace of ideas" philosophy. Also, if the government suppresses certain kinds of speech it may actually enhance the quality and effectiveness of the message, the fact that their message needs to be hidden may make those groups seem more attractive than they would otherwise.

  • Hugh Akston||

    First, what on earth does the last sentence have to do with the others?

    I think he's looking for Ben Franklin nudes.

  • Swiss Servator||

    Consider a law that makes it a crime to access websites that glorify, express support for, or provide encouragement for ISIS law school or support recruitment by ISIS lawyers; to distribute links to those websites or videos, images, or text taken from those websites; or to encourage people to access such websites by supplying them with links or instructions. Such a law would be directed at people like Amin 1Ls: naïve people, rather than sophisticated terrorists attorneys, who are initially driven by curiosity to research ISIS law school on the Web.

  • MJGreen - Docile Citizen||

    Another loud "fuck off" to Eric Posner. Freedoms don't need to be justified, you piece of shit.

  • EscherEnigma||

    To the contrary, they need to *constantly* be justified, lest people forget why they're important and pay no heed when as they get chipped away.

  • Derp-o-Matic 5000||

    The way to combat bad or untrue speech is with more speech.

    Criminalizing support/encouragement for ISIS is (1) a great recruiting tool for ISIS and (2) an enormous grant of power for the administration to go after anyone who disagrees with its ISIS strategy.

  • Zunalter||

    Or just in general allowing the government to decide what its people are allowed to see and not see.

  • AlexInCT||

    Meh, they have been trying since they got into power in 2008 and saw how hard it was to fuck over people when there were alternative outlets to find out the facts from. You all still remember that the big take from Benghazi for these people was that we needed control of social media because a video had caused a "spontaneous riot", right? At the risk of needing a tin foil hat, I have to admit that I will not be surprised ISIS was created by these people to allow them to do more of this.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    But that's not enough for Posner, because "Amin did not start out as a jihadi; he was made into one."

    The people who listen to Posner maybe don't start out anti-speech advocates, but they could turn into ones. Can we take that chance?

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Interesting, isn't it, that it's always the citizen's freedom which must be sacrificed for the foreigner's well-being or preference. This is a commonplace in countries which are protectorates or clients of another, more savage state. It is an unprecedented travesty for the world's only superpower to do so, and for such a thing to be suggested by an elite functionary of this superpower is a disgusting parody of charity for one's fellow person.

  • Not okay||

    The argument for free speech doesn't really need to include whether ISIS is bad enough. They provide little to nothing, they will probably be able to recruit some people, and there is still no reason to end free speech.

  • Free Market Socialist $park¥||

    "Posner didn't start out as an irreparable douchebag; he was made into one."

  • MJGreen - Docile Citizen||

    Can we at least call Posner a pants-shitter?

  • Swiss Servator||

    ...yes.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Depends.

  • Citizen X||

    I hate you.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    I was hoping for a narrowed gaze.

  • Loki||

    *Looks around for Swiss, doesn't see him*

    Guess I'll step up to the plate here.

    *narrows gaze*

  • Hugh Akston||

    Yeah, basically anyone who wants to abrogate liberties in the name of fighting terrierism qualifies nicely as a pants-shitter.

  • AlmightyJB||

    OT: Ohio AG investigating top 3 theater chains for antitrust violations.

    http://nbc4i.com/2015/12/17/oh.....iolations/

  • Ted S.||

    Even without reading the article I bet the AG is a fucking grandstander.

  • AlmightyJB||

    And a dick

  • Akira||

    "The major justification for freedom of speech is the marketplace of ideas—the claim that if people can say whatever they want, the best ideas will flourish. But just what is it that we can learn from the NRA? The social value of assault weapons? The finer points of armor-piercing ammunition?"

    "The major justification for freedom of speech is the marketplace of ideas—the claim that if people can say whatever they want, the best ideas will flourish. But just what is it that we can learn from the Koch-funded radicals at Reason.com? The social value of letting orphans die in the streets? The finer points of pushing granny off the cliff?"

    "The major justification for freedom of speech is the marketplace of ideas—the claim that if people can say whatever they want, the best ideas will flourish. But just what is it that we can learn from the climate change deniers? The social value of ignoring a scientific consensus? The finer points of killing our planet with fossil fuels?"

  • Not okay||

    You know that would be next. The left is convinced the NRA exists through some dark cabal of profiteers. It's incomprehensible people could believe in the 2nd amendment without the evil influence. When you look at it from their view it makes perfect sense, we need to silence some so the "people" can be heard.

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    The left is convinced the NRA dissent from leftist views exists through some dark cabal of profiteers. It's incomprehensible people could believe in the 2nd amendment and other non-leftist views without the evil influence.

    FTFY

  • Seguin, the Mighty Monoclops||

    Posner started out with a punchable face, but it only got more punchable the moment he opened his mouth.

  • GamerFromJump||

    Punchable, or Falcon Punch-able?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Eric Posner is making quite the name for himself as one of free speech's mostFree speech will kill us all.
    Dreamstime/Alexskopje
    virulent critics.

    I truly didn't think Posner could get any worse after Benghazi, but somehow, me managed to up the ante.

    BTW, I can't find a picture on the web because it was on a print-copy of The Stranger, but they had a full page Gay Jesus ad with a guy who looked like Jesus... tatted up, poncing around in an affected pose. I was waiting for my table and I was just staring at it thinking... huh, shouldn't we be like burning stuff the fuck down right now and storming the offices of The Stranger? Then I promptly forgot about it until just now.

  • Pan Zagloba||

    And that's why you won't see Gay Mohammed ad in The Stranger. Something about incentives comes to mind.

  • Derp-o-Matic 5000||

    I'm reminded of a South Park episode from like ten years ago, when Comedy Central censored a shot of Mohammed answering the door, but didn't even give a second look to a five-minute sequence of Jesus and the President shitting on each other and an American flag.

  • Loki||

    didn't even give a second look to a five-minute sequence of Jesus and the President shitting on each other and an American flag.

    What episode was that from? I don't remember ever seeing that in a South Park episode. You sure it didn't just happen in one of your "head movies"?

  • Eternal Blue Sky||

    "Cartoon Wars", an episode about censorship itself, making the fact Comedy Central censored the episode even better.

    I also find it interesting that South Park does a downright respectful portrayal of Muhammad when they use him. He's always a good guy and portrayed in inoffensive ways, as if to accentuate the absurdity of the fact that THAT gets censored while Buddha shooting up cocaine or Jesus murdering the pope don't get censored at all.

  • GILMORE™||

    "Posner writes that the "unprecedented threat" of ISIS using the internet to propagandize and recruit "calls for new thinking about limits on freedom of speech."

    I am having a flashback =

    Trump = "ISIS.....They're using the internet...which was *our idea*... and they're using it better than us! We need to get the smart people, and use the smart people to make them stop doing that."

    Wulf Blitzen= "So you're saying you'd close parts of the internet"?

    Trump = (makes thinking face) "Parts of it, I would close"

    Basically, Posner is no different than Trump

    Also, what the hell is it with People Named Posner

  • Pan Zagloba||

    I'm sorry, but Posner went to Yale, then Harvard. This makes him much superior to Trump, and thus his ideas should be discussed in a dispassionate manner, given fair consideration and perhaps looked to glean some reasonable, moderate measures.
    Why can't you people be more like us enlightened Canadians, and put Bad Speech into your Criminal Code? Just a tip, honestly...

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The difference is, if these were European politics, Posner would be on the left, and Trump would be Right-wing.

  • Raven Nation||

  • Bill Dalasio||

    This Posner is that Posner's spawn.

  • GILMORE™||

    Ah. that makes sense.

    2 generations of pants-shitting-control-freaks

    Described by Reason as "arguably the nation's most respected judge and most prominent legal scholar", and a very likely supreme-court candidate.... is also a proponent of Secret Trials, restricting people's ability to record police behavior... whose son thinks college students are babies who don't have speech rights

    He seems to have said nice things that pleased libertarians on one or two occasions... but is otherwise a giant bag of shit.

  • ||

    Check out Law and Economics.

  • ||

    Worse by far than wanting to prevent people from speaking as their conscience dictates this fuckstick wants to criminalize hearing or reading information regardless of whether or not said reader agrees with the speakers position.

    Never change Slate. Never change.

    Posner, go fuck yourself with a cattle prod.

  • Citizen X||

    I bet he'd enjoy that.

  • Akira||

    "Those who regard free speech as fundamental need to consider whether legal principles that arose centuries ago make sense in the age of Snapchat."

    Yes you mendacious fascist fuck, they make more sense than ever. Snapchat and other forms of online communication are the things that allow the people to compete with mass corporate media in the marketplace of ideas. And when I say "the people", I do mean ordinary, individual people of average means, not "the government", which is what statists mean when they use that term.

    It just terrifies these people that we can now get dissenting views and counterpoints from "unauthorized" sources; we're no longer forced to rely on government-fellating news agencies for our facts. It's no surprise that they want to shut down freedom of speech.

  • GILMORE™||

    I had this thought while not-watching the GOP debates the other night =

    Terrorists threaten the US, and the first thing people want to do? Destroy the constitution. "That will save us!"

    It reminds me of this. Somehow there is a mass translation of "They hate us for ar Freedums!?", to "Ergo, let's get rid of those freedums"

    And voters nod their heads, like, "yeah, that makes sense.".

    Never mind the whole oath-swearing thing about "preserving and defending the constitution"

  • Not okay||

    I don't think a lot of people know that much about the constitution or particularly care. There's a sizable faction on the right that thinks Anerica is great because of culture, apple pie, and baseball. We must protect those things!

  • Zunalter||

    I am definitely pro-pie.

  • Akira||

    "Just say no to ISIS, mkay?"

    Shit... If they try to use anti-drug tactics to keep kids away from "radical groups", our kids will rush over to join them in a heartbeat.

    A D.A.R.E. program for ISIS would be a disaster.

  • Derp-o-Matic 5000||

    Well, I'd disagree with your assessment that the drug war is winding down. I think it's merely being scaled back; it was so over-extended that even suburban moms were starting to question its legitimacy. They're moving away from pot and on to the more scarier drugs, but it's still going strong.

    More to the point, though, I think you're right. The government has effectively eroded to nothing nearly everything in the Bill of Rights except for the First Amendment, which up to now has been remarkably secure (not perfectly so, mind you, but compared to the others). Between this anti-ISIS scare shit and the attacks on Christians in the name of "tolerance," I think they've decided the moment to strike is now.

  • brokencycle||

    How can U of Chicago econ department produce some of the best libertarians, but at the same time their law school produces some of the biggest authoritarians?

  • AlmightyJB||

    I was thinking the exact same thing

  • Free Society||

    How can U of Chicago econ department produce some of the best libertarians

    That's highly debatable. The Chicago school has produced some of the worst libertarians because they're not libertarians and everyone considers them the template for what a libertarian is. They're theories of justice, which are the foundations of their theories on economics, are contemptible and incompatible with liberty.

  • Free Society||

    their* god damn it

  • brokencycle||

    There are non-libertarians who come out of Chicago obviously, but Friedman and Buchanan both were very strong libertarians, and many of their Nobel laureates in economics received the prize based on ideas that (for the most part) support libertarian ideals.

  • brokencycle||

    To add on, the law school is pretty much just fascists.

  • Free Society||

    No one wins the Nobel prize for ideas, that is to say theory, they win it for empirical analysis. Friedman won his Nobel prize for coming up with a better way for our central bank to centrally plan the finance market. Color me not impressed that a libertarian devoted his life to improving fundamentally socialist institutions. Now I will concede that Milton Friedman has done some good in being a popular voice for liberty and bringing people to our side. But he's a most imperfect libertarian, it may only be appropriate to think of him as libertarian lite, or maybe just a fellow traveler.

    But he disdained market produced money, as though the only civilized medium of exchange is not that which the market determines to be best, but that which is forced upon you at gun point.
    He was also a proponent of a "negative income tax", which many on this board are astoundingly in favor of too, so I better not delve too deeply into that can of worms.
    He expounded greatly on "market failures", areas of economic activity that he says cannot work reasonably well without a strong government bureaucracy's hand to guide the entrepreneurs. (+1 EPA). He has some mixed position on military service, antitrust and so on. But at the end of the day, Friedman was a libertarian on some issues and an outright utilitarian leftoid on others.

    While that may or may not be enough to actually categorize him as a libertarian, he was hardly the greatest champion of liberty that he's made out to be.

  • Loki||

    he's a most imperfect libertarian

    *Lights a pyre*

    BURN THE HERETIC!!11!!!!1! IMPURE!!11!!!1!!1 IMPURE!!!!!!11!1!!!!1!!!!

  • Free Society||

    Why you're right! Those 5 words just look terrible when you take it completely out of context. Much less in a post where I specifically say, multiple times, that I'm not sure if he's a libertarian or if he isn't, just I disagree with the assessment that he was "a very strong libertarian" let alone the greatest of libertarians that ever walked the earth.

  • Loki||

    Mostly just bringin' some snarky sarcasm, as usual. Although one thing about libertarians that does kind of irritate is the whole "purity test" bullshit that so many of us seem to get into. The truth is, no one is a 100% perfect libertarian, and every libertarian thinker has their blindspots. Friedman's was thinking he could tame the beast that is the Fed (and income tax withholding).

    I guess at the end of the day the question isn't "was he the greatest libertarian ever" but "did his ideas move the needle more or less in the direction of individual liberty." I think with Friedman the answer is yes, and I'd sure as fuck take him over the likes of Eric Posner any day.

  • Free Society||

    I guess at the end of the day the question isn't "was he the greatest libertarian ever" but "did his ideas move the needle more or less in the direction of individual liberty." I think with Friedman the answer is yes, and I'd sure as fuck take him over the likes of Eric Posner any day.

    And I did concede that he did at least in part, move the needle in that direction. I even used the word "concede" :) And yes he is better than most of the economists and theorists churned out of the bowels of the Chicago school of thought.

  • GILMORE™||

    Do you have an example of someone who is a "very strong libertarian"...

    ... who isn't some perfectionist-utopia-demanding asshat who has never even marginally influenced public policy?

  • Free Society||

    Do you have an example of someone who is a "very strong libertarian"...

    ... who isn't some perfectionist-utopia-demanding asshat who has never even marginally influenced public policy?

    First of all, you're begging the question when you assume that person who strives to influence "public policy" is even in the running for title of "very strong libertarian".

    Secondly, yes there are many good examples. And bearing in mind that I'm not claiming any of these examples are golden gods of infallibility, some are however closer to the ideal than others. Off the top of my head, Ron Paul could be considered a pretty strong libertarian, as is Murray Rothbard, Hans Hoppe, Walter Block, David Friedman (Milton's son and a Chicago school guy), Tom Woods, Stefan Molyneux, Thomas di Lorenzo, Joseph Salerno, Ludwig von Mises. I'm sure I'm leaving some off that list and I'm also sure Milton isn't in the running.

  • Free Society||

    And definitely Bob Murphy, if for no other reason than his dedication to the refutation of all things Krugman.

  • ||

    What fucking theories of justice? Even a four year old child understands justice. It's not that complicated, and it's absurd to imagine that there could be competing "theories". If anything, property is just abstracted justice, and sufficiently abstracted that jerkoffs can pretend to be all confused about what it means. But in itself, justice is plain as day. It's also why they need to invent alternate, anti-justice ideas like "social justice". Fairness is a useful idea, but fairness is the enemy of justice, a fact which is not adequately admitted.

  • Free Society||

    According to the Chicago school's other Posner (Richard), "whatever increases social wealth is just". So essentially, Posner is claiming that courts, and justice more broadly, should assign property rights to whomever will most maximize "social wealth" (a net increase in the amount of wealth in existence). So that's a big stamp of approval for seizing a little old lady's house and building a strip mall or factory on the land, that would increase wealth but that's not justice.

    Another example would be that it's justice to steal from a gambler. Suppose a degenerate gambler was going to pump money into a slot machine and spend all his money on that, whereas I seeing this, decide that I'm going to rob him at gun point and invest that money in some economic activity that will produce more wealth in the world. Then according to the Chicago theory of justice, I will be within my rights to steal from that man.

    The Chicago school of economics wraps their shoddy theory of justice in a then veneer of empiricism and tell everyone that stealing from that little old lady or stealing from that gambler is actually justice AND it's "scientific". Then everyone calls them the champions of liberty and the true representatives of laissez faire economics.

  • Not okay||

    Nice how they use "social wealth" because it has no meaning. How does it not occur to people that in order to assign such a pricing system you must have an authority to decide what the wealth is, basically replacing what people decide for what an authoritarian entity decides.

    All of these ideas that seek to get away market created wealth must be authoritarian because they require an authority to override people's individual decisions.

  • Free Society||

    It seems like their theory of justice is meant to give a pass to the current government justice system, rather than describe what justice actually is. They're basically making the case that taxation isn't theft. Now it may possible, not plausible but possible, to argue that taxation is a good thing on utilitarian grounds, but it cannot be argued from first principles. What the Chicago school folks are trying to do, particularly R. Posner and Coase, is change the definition of those first principles so that they may conform to the status quo and legitimize their policy preferences in that way.

    "Are your preferred policies incompatible with basic principles of justice? Well no worries Mr Slaver, you can just redefine 'justice' into some asinine concept that actually does support your asinine policy preferences!"

  • Mindyourbusiness||

    I've said this before, but - anytime someone uses the word "social" as a modifier, put your hand on your wallet, and be prepared to defend yourself.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Social wealth is another word for Hoovervilles, slums, people's states...

  • Lee G||

    Woodrow Wilson just came in his coffin.

  • MJGreen - Docile Citizen||

    Not to be confused with a ghost load.

  • Lee G||

    Posner is also the jackass who wrote this steaming turd of an opinion.

    Jameel, I don’t see the need for systemic reform, nor do I see an offense to the Constitution. Indeed, I don’t even understand the nature of the objection to the National Security Agency programs. Exactly what harm did they cause? Two possibilities emerge from the current public discussion.

    1. A general sense of creepiness that government officials know when we make phone calls, and for how long, or may even be reading our e-mail messages. Government should not look over our shoulders as we conduct our lives.

    2. A fear that the government uses this information to undermine democracy — to blackmail, harass or embarrass critics, for example.
  • Lee G||

    The first objection strikes me as weak. We already give the government an enormous amount of information about our lives, and seem to have gotten used to the idea that an Internal Revenue Service knows our finances, or that an employee of a government hospital knows our medical history, or that social workers (if we are on welfare) know our relationships with family members, or that public school teachers know about our children’s abilities and personalities. The information vacuumed up by the N.S.A. was already available to faceless bureaucrats in phone and Internet companies — not government employees, but strangers just the same. Many people write as though we make some great sacrifice by disclosing private information to others, but it is in fact simply the way that we obtain services we want — whether the market services of doctors, insurance companies, Internet service providers, employers, therapists and the rest, or the nonmarket services of the government like welfare and security.
  • Derp-o-Matic 5000||

    seem to have gotten usedhave succumbed at gunpoint to the idea that an Internal Revenue Service knows our financeswhile the courts throw out the Fourth and Fifth Amendments in the name of "paying for civilization"

    FTFY

  • Lee G||

    Even so, I am exaggerating the nature of the intrusion. The chance that human beings in government will actually read our e-mails or check our phone records is infinitesimal (though I can understand that organizations like the A.C.L.U. that have a legitimate interest in communicating with potential government targets may be more vulnerable than the rest of us). Mostly all we are doing is making our information available to a computer algorithm, which is unlikely to laugh at our infirmities or gossip about our relationships.

    The second objection is a lot more serious. We know that our government is capable of misusing information in this way, as occurred during the Nixon administration. Many people seem to believe that President Obama sent telepathic signals to I.R.S. workers instructing them to harass Tea Party organizations. But I am unaware — and correct me if I am wrong — of a single instance during the last 12 years of war-on-terror-related surveillance in which the government used information obtained for security purposes to target a political opponent, dissenter or critic. That means that, for now, this objection is strictly theoretical, and the mere potential for abuse can’t by itself be a good reason to shut down a program. If it were, we would have no government.
  • Akira||

    "That means that, for now, this objection is strictly theoretical, and the mere potential for abuse can’t by itself be a good reason to shut down a program. If it were, we would have no government."

    Sounds good to me!

  • Old.Mexican||

    In Slate, Posner[...]


    Trigger warning: It's Slate.

    the "unprecedented threat" of ISIS using the internet to propagandize and recruit "calls for new thinking about limits on freedom of speech."


    How wonderful to see a "law professor" make so liberal a use of question-begging. You see, we need limits in free speech because ISIS use of Internet for propaganda is "unprecedented."

    Well, anything can be "unprecedented," even the limits on free speech you propose.

  • Free Society||

    Eric Posner, living proof that the Chicago school theories of economics and justice have nothing to do with liberty.

  • Lee G||

    +1 Withholding

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Posner is threatening my constitutional rights.

  • Lee G||

    More importantly, he's threatening one of your natural rights that happens to be mentioned in the Constitution.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    That's what I meant, Lee.

  • Lee G||

    Sorry, I was getting my Spooner on.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Don't be sorry. You said it much better than I did. Thank you.

  • Citizen X||

    +0 Treason

  • MJGreen - Docile Citizen||

    Help, help, I'm being repressed!

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    Though he never gets into specifics, he refers to the World War I-era crackdown on "dissenters who merely criticized the war and were not spreading German propaganda or trying to recruit agents."

    Here's what James Loewen says about that — and the post-WWI Red Scare that followed and Posner ignores:

    To oppose America's participation in World War I, or even to be pessimistic about it, was dangerous. The Creel Committee asked all Americans to "report the man who ... cries for peace, or belittles our efforts to win the war." Send their names to the Justice Department in Washington, it exhorted. After World War I, the Wilson administration's attacks on civil liberties increased, now with anticommunism as the excuse. Neither before nor since these campaigns has the United States come closer to being a police state. [emphasis added]

    What Eric Ponser wants is a police state.

    Is he gunning for the position of Gauleiter?

  • Derp-o-Matic 5000||

    All advocates of the police state assume that they will be the ones in power.

  • Derp-o-Matic 5000||

    Well, he has the right feelz

  • Zunalter||

    Less burkas?

  • Hank Phillips||

    Parasites never plan on hosting...

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Related: HBO and Snapchat are Reportedly Helping the U.S. Counter ISIS Propaganda

    I had CNN on earlier and there was a Congresswoman talking about balancing cyber security issues and defeating ISIS. Your social media soon will be no longer yours.

  • ||

    I am struck by the incredible lack of imagination and creativeness. 'Out of touch' doesnt really cover it.

    "pro­mote power­ful stor­ies of young people in the Middle East who have re­jec­ted IS­IS’s reign of ter­ror and are act­ively work­ing to make the re­gion a bet­ter place to live."

    I am guessing that anyone who was born and raised in that part of the world would be rolling in the aisles laughing at the cheesy 'just say no' bullshit they are going to produce.

  • Free Society||

    Hey, it worked for marijuana. No one uses the devil's lettuce anymore.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Yes... hagiographies are the bulwark of Christian National Socialism. Surely that'll work for the Prophet's spinoff version.

  • LynchPin1477||

    "unprecedented threat"

    Oh fuck off. We survived the British in the 18th and 19th centuries and the Nazis, Japanese, and Soviets in the 20th. They were all orders of magnitude larger threats than ISIS. There is nothing unprecedented about the threat ISIS poses. None.

    Posner is a much bigger threat than ISIS. And I still don't want him to be silenced or droned, because I value liberty and human life.

  • LynchPin1477||

    The major justification for freedom of speech is the marketplace of ideas

    Wrong. WRONG. The major justification of free speech is that human beings are ends in and of themselves and don't need to justify their thoughts or actions to Eric Posner as long as they aren't violating his rights. Full. Fucking. Stop.

    The marketplace of ideas is wonderful but freedom of speech does not flow from the marketplace of ideas. On the contrary, the marketplace of ideas flows from free speech.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, that really stuck out to me too.

    Anyone who thinks basic freedoms need to be justified is fucked. The only thing that needs to be justified is the use of violence against people who aren't harming anyone.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The only way to censor grownup speech is by sending paid agents of the Political State to aim guns at you and shout orders. It is the initiation of force, not the marketplace of ideas, that threatens the standard of value that defines the border between right and wrong, good and evil. All Posner is really saying is that he does not care a whit for human life and/or has yet to be beaten at gunpoint for the practical, hands-on experience so valuable to important lessons in life.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Those who regard free speech as fundamental need to consider whether legal principles that arose centuries ago make sense in the age of Snapchat.

    First, free speech isn't a legal principle. It's a fundamental human right upon which a just legal principle is built (this guys seems to really have things backwards).

    Second, it makes more sense today than it did 200 years ago. Because it is easier for a police state to monitor speech in an age of Snapchat, free speech must be even more vigorously defended.

  • Loki||

    Eric Posner: giant douche, or the biggest douche in the universe?

  • Trouser-Pod (The blowhard)||

    He's a coward, and needs to be protected.

    Can't we just start calling him Eric Pussy?

  • SilentCal||

    Eric POSner?

  • ||

    Posner's utilitarianism. I'd like to see the detailed calculation, though. Not being allowed to access websites (books?) of such kind seriously limits people's opportunities to examine evil, deception, human nature, and current events. It also creates castes, oligarchies of people who are allowed to see, who are allowed to know, to experience, and to contemplate -- and who control others. The costs - under a utilitarian paradigm - are potentially dramatic. This is the kind of utilitarianism perfected by Plato's Republic.

  • Free Society||

    Posner's utilitarianism.

    The entire Chicago school is utilitarian at it's core, both in terms of it's economic policy and the theories of justice they're ilk promote.

  • EscherEnigma||

    "one of civilization's most sacred values"
    Um... no. You can argue that it's one of *America's* "most sacred values", but civilization as a whole? That's a big ol' heap of "no".

    That's why the First Amendment, and America's free speech protections, were/are so revolutionary. It's unlike anything you'll find anywhere else in the world. And you diminish it, and it's importance, when you try to cast it as some sort of "civilization" trait.

  • Dangerous Buffoon||

    All civilizations believe in free speech, and tolerance and shit.
    /sarc

  • Sevo||

    We probably shouldn't jail Eric Posner, but.....

  • ||

    These sorts of arguments seem to be based on the premise that ignorance is the only thing keeping everyone from turning into bitter, anti-government revolutionaries.

  • Whahappan?||

    And the premise is correct.

  • dexter||

    PLease, please, please Reason, make an article about what the governement is doing in France, we currently got our constitutional right "suspended" for 3 month (and 3 more month maybe) !!! People got jail time because they say "terrorism apology" while drunk, peoples are getting into jail for nothing more than being muslim. 99% of the time, the "urgence state" is use for other thing than terrorism.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Seven a year is 185,000 times fewer than annual traffic fatalities. If more than seven of those auto deaths turn out to be negligent or malicious homicides, we will have a prima-facie case for banning the automobile by force of military might and relying instead on collective transportation. There is no pesky Amendment upholding the right of the people to keep and drive cars. Besides, think of the lives "we" (you paying and government agents pointing guns) could save!

  • John in GA||

    "His reasoning for for the abandonment of one of civilization's most sacred values..."

  • lovelydestruction||

    STOP calling it ISIS like it's some kind of big comic book villain. Call it Daesh or IS

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