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My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague, Veronique de Rugy, has a new podcast sponsored by AIER: Qualified Opinion. In her inaugural episode she talks with GMU Scalia Law professor Adam White about the return of progressive regressive notions about antitrust.

George Will is rightly and highly critical of the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to smack down campus thought police. Two slices:

Although the Supreme Court is frequently accused of improper “activism,” it is often guilty of passive dereliction of duty. It was last week, when it refused to correct the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit’s lackadaisical tolerance of the culture of enforced conformity on campuses.

Virginia Tech’s “Bias Intervention and Response Team” policy designated teams composed of school officials to scurry about in response to reports of unacceptable ideas. The policy encouraged students to report — anonymously online, if they preferred — anything that “feels like” bias. The university defined bias broadly as “expressions” — students’ conversations, posters, voice mails, emails, texts, jokes, etc. — seen or heard (or overheard, or heard about), on campus or off.


After a district court refused Speech First’s request to enjoin Virginia Tech’s practices, the organization appealed last year to the 4th Circuit, which allowed Virginia Tech’s severe regulation of speech to continue. The 4th Circuit majority’s reasoning was, however, shredded by Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson’s dissent.

He correctly insisted that Virginia Tech’s policy had “incipient inquisitional overtones” and turned the campus into “a surveillance state” where the First Amendment existed “at the sufferance of a bureaucracy.” His complacent colleagues said there was no “direct” evidence of “objectively” chilled speech. (Well, yes: Self-censorship is silent; suppressed thoughts are undetectable.) The 4th Circuit’s majority said the bias response teams could not punish. (They could, however, refer any matter to university entities that can.) The majority said that bias response teams could only “invite” an accused student to a “voluntary” meeting with a university official. (The mincing language does not disguise the menace.)

The name “Bias Intervention and Response Team” radiates prejudgment by the university, which preserves a file of all complaints. And the blandly named Informational Activities Policy forbade distributing fliers or collecting signatures without the school administration’s prior approval.

Last week, the supposedly activist Supreme Court passively refused to hear Speech First’s appeal against the 4th Circuit’s passivity. Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., vigorously dissented, saying that Virginia Tech’s regulating of speech “appears limitless in scope”: “From the moment a student enters the university until graduation, he is under the university’s surveillance.” On campus and off.

Mike Munger writes insightfully about the division of labor. A slice:

In a system of division of labor, each of us is empowered to search out new ways to serve others — without seeking state permission first — in the hopes that someone will value what we produce. Suppose I have few skills, but I am an experienced plumber. I can’t eat, drink, or shelter myself using that skill set, but nonetheless I think that I am a good person, deserving of a life of at least moderate prosperity.

I go to the grocery store, and ask the grocer to provide me with beans, rice, flour, butter, coffee, and milk. The grocer demurs, saying “I only give food and drink to people who can prove to me that they have served their fellow man, in ways those people actually value and care about.”

Hungry and thirsty, I advertise my services as a plumber, and soon I have several phone calls from people who have clogged toilets, stuck drains, or leaking pipes. After working for eight hours, I have accumulated a considerable pile of currency, which my customers exchanged for my using my plumbing expertise to fix their problems. These dollars are, in effect, “certificates of social service,” proof that I have provided useful and valuable benefits to my fellow citizens.

I now go back, tired and hungry but confident, to the grocery store. When the proprietor asks for proof that I have fulfilled my promise to serve others, I show him the tidy pile of service certificates in my wallet. Impressed, the grocer allows me to fill my shopping cart with a generous bounty of products from all over the world. Because I am grateful for this useful and valuable benefit, I give the grocer an amount of the certificates equal to the value of products I have put into my cart. The certificates themselves need have no intrinsic value, but since they can only be obtained if I provide a service that someone else esteems and wants, they take on a value as a medium of exchange.

Now before the reader objects, two points are in order. First, yes, that example is adapted from the great insights of the late George Mason economist, Walter E. Williams. I have changed the details, but the logic is Walter’s. Second, this is not — and is not intended — as an historically accurate account of the origins of money. Instead, it is a thought experiment about how someone with little ability to take care of themselves might obtain a secure, even prosperous, place in a commercial society. As long as you have some way of serving others — what we often call “making a living” — you can live in a market system.

This letter by Mark Quinn, of Naperville, Illinois, to the editor of the Wall Street Journal is spot-on accurate:

Walter Russell Mead is correct that “American power is grounded in capitalism” (“A Distracted America Still Leads the World,” Global View, March 5). It is that truth, however, that undermines Mr. Mead’s confidence in America’s retaining its position as the world’s leader.

Capitalism can only sustain the American miracle if America continues to embrace capitalism. Recent evidence, however, points to the contrary. The White House has embarked upon a program of Washington-driven industrial policy with the acquiescence of enough Republicans to make such an attack on capitalism possible.

Judging from Donald Trump’s rhetoric about trade barriers, including 10% across-the-board tariffs, restoring American industry, and bringing back American jobs, with little regard for the economic repercussions of such policies, a second Trump term would not be friendly to the free-market policies that made America a formidable economic and financial force.

Should the markets interfere with Mr. Trump’s vision of the day for America, one can be confident that Mr. Trump’s indifference toward capitalism will be replaced by contempt.

Meanwhile, policies that cushion the blow of free markets—such as debt forgiveness, pricing restrictions, opportunity-destroying minimum wages, targeted spending programs and guaranteed incomes—continue to grow in popularity as our populace becomes too stressed and triggered by the demands of a system that has heretofore provided us a superb standard of living.

How often does one today hear the word “capitalism” anywhere in popular discourse without the kind of negative connotation we once ascribed to such terms as “socialism”?

Mark M. Quinn

Rachel Paulose and Luke Wake decry the Securities and Exchange Commission’s conscription of corporations in its “new climate change fight.”

Also writing on the SEC gone rogue is the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal. A slice:

Federal securities law authorizes the SEC to require disclosures that are “in the public interest or for the protection of investors.” This delegation doesn’t empower the agency to order companies to disclose anything it wants. Under the Supreme Court’s major-questions doctrine, significant policy changes require clear Congressional authorization.

Even the Obama SEC in 2016 conceded that it lacked authority to mandate disclosures on “sustainability matters” and other “public policy concerns.” The SEC has a long record of acting in a bipartisan manner under Presidents of both parties. That ended when President Biden appointed Mr. Gensler to use regulation to impose the left’s climate agenda that it can’t pass through Congress.

Available here is an ungated version of David Henderson’s and Charley Hooper’s recent Wall Street Journal essay, “Be Thankful for High Drug Prices.”