Amid the rousing rhetoric and lofty abstractions, “Areopagitica” offers a compelling case for the social value of free expression: “Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making.” Restricting it, wrote Milton, “will be to the discouragement of all learning, and the stop of Truth.” Even “bad books” have a role, as “they to a discreet and judicious Reader serve in many respects to discover, to confute, to forewarn, and to illustrate.” Their challenges promote the development of morals: “I cannot praise a fugitive and cloister’d vertue, unexercis’d & unbreath’d, that never sallies out and sees her adversary.”
Remarkably, White House press secretary Jen Psaki has declined to criticize the Ruth Sent Us intimidation tactics. “I think the president’s view is that there’s a lot of passion, a lot of fear, a lot of sadness from many, many people across this country about what they saw in that leaked document,” she rationalized.
Ms. Psaki also declined to criticize the leak of the draft opinion, though it clearly harms the reputation of the Court. What happened to President Biden’s concern for declining public trust in government institutions?
The threats against the Court are enough that a fence has gone up around the Supreme Court building, and new security has been laid on. A violent act by a fanatic can’t be ruled out, and this warrants the attention of Attorney General Merrick Garland. Federal law makes it a crime to threaten federal judges, and that includes threats of vigilantism.
Jesse Walker recalls history, pre-Roe v. Wade. Two slices:
Once upon a time, the country was crawling with pro-life liberals and leftists. Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, one of the period’s preeminent liberal Democrats, once declared that the right to life begins at “the very moment of conception,” a position he held until 1975. Further left, the Black Panther Party fiercely denounced abortion, a procedure it associated with eugenics. When New York liberalized its abortion rules in 1970, the party paper declared the change a “victory for the oppressive ruling class who will use this law to kill off Black and other oppressed people before they are born….How long do you think it will take for voluntary abortion to turn into involuntary abortion to turn into compulsory sterilization?” Like Kennedy, the Panthers didn’t reverse themselves on the issue until the mid-’70s.
The Republican Party, conversely, had far more room than it does today for people who favored the liberalization of abortion laws. But those liberalizers didn’t always deploy the rhetoric of choice. Early on, the movement was dominated by other arguments, such as the health risks of illegal abortions or, on a creepier note, the alleged need for population control. It was the feminists, with their rhetoric of “my body, my choice,” who did the most to introduce arguments about individual liberty to that side of the debate.
It wasn’t just the right as a whole that wasn’t united. Even the Christian right wasn’t united. In We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics, historian Neil J. Young notes that while conservative Catholics were forthrightly opposed to abortion throughout this period, conservative Protestants were at first divided. The Southern Baptist Convention “initially offered mild support for abortion law reform”—that is, for some degree of liberalization. “Some Baptists even scoffed at Catholic involvement in the issue before eventually taking an absolutist stand against abortion.” (The Catholic-Protestant-Mormon alliances that seem to come naturally today had to be built very delicately in the decades before.) And just as the supporters of abortion rights did not always rest their arguments on choice, their opponents did not always center the idea of life. Many focused instead on sexual morality, in some cases refraining from decrying abortion as murder.
My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy argues that, while today’s inflation isn’t caused by supply-
chain web obstructions, such obstructions do exist and ought to be cleared. A slice:
For instance, Congress should immediately repeal the 1920 Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act. Under the act, all freight moving by water between U.S. ports must be hauled on ships that are built, crewed, and flagged only by Americans. These requirements directly raise the costs of shipping freight by water. And by artificially increasing the demand to instead ship by rail and trucks, the Jones Act also increases the cost of hauling freight on land.
While at it, Congress should reform the Foreign Dredge Act, which requires that dredging barges are Jones Act compliant. This significantly inflates the costs of dredging U.S. ports, preventing expansions that could accommodate more and larger ships.
The Biden administration must also end former President Donald Trump’s punitive tariffs and import quotas. These measures inflate costs and reduce the supplies of goods—including goods that are themselves useful for further easing supply constraints. For example, Section 301 tariffs drastically reduce the supply of truck chassis in the United States, worsening bottlenecks in the surface transportation of other freight.
Immigration restrictions affect supply chains, too. As the Cato Institute’s Scott Lincicome notes, these restrictions have “removed at least 1 million potential (and lawful) workers from the U.S. labor market, putting acute pressure on labor-intensive industries like warehousing. (And backed-up warehouses make it more difficult to clear containers that are stacked up at various ports.)”
It is axiomatic that hard cases often make bad law. Boston’s flag case was easy, but beneath the surface unanimity, within the concurrences, there bubbled a ferment of disagreement that might be a harbinger of better law resulting from renewed respect for the original meaning of “establishment.”
My first thought was that the continuing steel tariff was silly but irrelevant, because Ukraine wasn’t likely to be exporting much steel for the foreseeable future. But go figure, one of the country’s other large steel mills, ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine, restarted one of its blast furnaces on April 9, and said it could restart a second furnace in May, if conditions allow.
So the Biden administration could make it easier for Ukraine to export steel to the U.S., but its just choosing not to do that.
The energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine disabused many politicians of the notion that the world could make a swift transition to green energy powered by solar, wind and wishful thinking. As food prices skyrocket and the conflict threatens a global food crisis, we need to face another unpopular reality: Organic farming is ineffective, land hungry and very expensive, and it would leave billions hungry if it were embraced world-wide.
For years, politicians and the chattering classes have argued that organic farming is the responsible way to feed the world. The European Union pushed last year for members roughly to triple organic farming by 2030. Influential nonprofits have long promoted organic farming to developing nations, causing fragile countries like Sri Lanka to invest in such methods. In the West, many consumers have been won over: About half the population of Germany believes that organic farming can fight global hunger.
The rise in food prices—buoyed by increased fertilizer, energy and transport costs—amid the conflict in Ukraine has exposed inherent flaws in the argument for organic farming. Because organic agriculture shirks many of the scientific advancements that have allowed farmers to increase crop yields, it’s inherently less efficient than conventional farming. Research has conclusively shown that organic farming produces less food per acre than conventional agriculture. Moreover, organic farming rotates fields in and out of use more often than conventional farming, which can rely on synthetic fertilizer and pesticides to maintain fertility and keep away pests.