Archive | Blogosphere

The Broadening of the Libertarian Movement

Like my George Mason colleague Bryan Caplan, I gave two talks at the Students for Liberty International Conference this weekend. And I emphatically agree with Bryan’s observation that the SFL students I met had vastly better social skills and are generally much more socially “normal” than were the young libertarians of my own generation (I graduated college in 1995):

The Students for Liberty conference has to be seen to be believed: the attendance (about 500 students), the energy (off the charts), and most remarkably of all, the high social skills. Twenty years ago, a pack of libertarian students would have been roughly as awkward and freakish as attendees at Comic-Con… or, say, me. Now I see hundreds of students who aren’t just smart, but smooth. What happened?

The best explanation I’ve got so far: the Internet. Back in the old days, libertarian students spent a lot of time alone with their books. It was awfully hard to meet others with a shared interest in liberty. This social isolation had two effects…..: Libertarians got a lot less practice sharing their ideas in a civilized and constructive way [and]… Few “people people” became libertarians because it was too depressing. As the Internet – and social networking, its favorite child – blossomed over the last two decades, these effects of libertarian isolation largely faded away.

A closely related trend is the high proportion of women among today’s young libertarians. By my rough estimate, about 40-45% of the SFL attendees were female. That’s a sea change from twenty years ago, when young libertarians were an overwhelmingly male group. Considering that women are on average less interested in politics than men are in general, the percentage of women in SFL is roughly what one would expect in a student political group that isn’t specifically […]

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Godfather Part IV: The Blogfather

Alleged Mafia boss Thomas Gioeli has started his own blog from prison [correction: jail] [HT: Instapundit, who claims that he himself is the true “Blogfather”]:

Call him the blogging crime boss: Reputed Colombo kingpin Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli has set up a behind-bars blog to portray himself as a good guy – not a wiseguy – and rant about everything from jail conditions to the way the FBI went after a 94-year-old mobster.

Prosecutors say Gioeli, 58, is trying to influence potential jurors through a blog called “Alleged Mob Boss Tommy Gioeli’s Voice.”

The first posting vowed, “It’s going to be Tommy’s voice; the voice of a generous, good humored, kind, compassionate, and loving husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and friend.”

Gioeli, awaiting trial for six murders, including the rubout of NYPD cop Ralph Dols, has no Internet access from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn – but he can email with family members who could post the blog items, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman said.

I actually predicted the phenomenon of blogging mobsters several years ago. On one of my Property final exams, which I loosely based on The Godfather, I included a hypothetical scenario where Fredo Corleone starts a blog called “Life in the Mafia,” and then gets sued for cybersquatting by other members of the Corleone family.

No word yet on whether imprisoned New York mobsters are forbidden to play Dungeons & Dragons. […]

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What Did James Madison Think about Blogs?

Are bloggers the 21st century equivalent of political pamphleteers?  Would James Madison have had one? I don’t know.  But I do know that several faculty members at the University of San Diego School of Law’s Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism have launched “The Originalism Blog.” This blog won’t endeavor to answer the question in this post’s title, but it is a good source for information and commentary including the latest scholarship, for and against.  If you have any interest in originalism — whether you love it or hate it — this is a blog worth bookmarking. […]

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Why Oh Why Can’t We Have Better EconProf Bloggers?

Would you consider it sound for one academic to attack a paper written by another, calling it (among other things) “obviously erroneous” and “simply stupid,” based upon a third-party representation of what it says?  And would you consider it responsible to use the third-party representation of said paper as Exhibit A for questioning why the author has a tenured job at a prestigious academic institution?  You would if you were University of California at Berkeley economics professor J. Bradford DeLong, who has continued his series of attacks against University of Chicago law professor M. Todd Henderson.  “I genuinely do not understand why Henderson has his job,” writes DeLong, pointing not to anything Henderson himself wrote but instead to what another academic blogger wrote about Henderson’s scholarship.  [Yes, this is the same Professor DeLong who repeats baseless accusations against other academics and then, when asked to substantiate his charges, selectively edits his comment threads and then dissembles about said editing when called on it.]

According to University of Illinois law professor Larry Ribstein, DeLong’s attack on Henderson’s scholarship is quite off base:

the most remarkable thing about DeLong’s post is that it accuses Todd of being “stupid” and unfit for law teaching because of an argument Todd didn’t make!

If DeLong had bothered to look even at the abstract of Todd’s article, perhaps he would have noticed that the article’s not about alignment of incentives, but about whether boards bargain with insiders over their gains.  Todd finds evidence consistent with the hypothesis that “boards pay executives in a way that reflects the profits they are expected to earn from informed trades.” . . .

I will leave it to the reader to decide what we should make of a Professor of Economics at U.C Berkeley, Chair of Berkeley’s


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Choosing Blogging Topics

Co-blogger Eugene Volokh gives some sensible reasons for why he chooses not to blog about some topics. I gave my own criteria for making such decisions here:

I try to limit blogging to issues where I have a comparative advantage: that is, questions on which I can say something useful or interesting that is unlikely to be said by others…..

I take seriously the implications of some of my own scholarly work on political ignorance. Merely knowing a few basic facts that can be gleaned from perusing a newspaper is not enough knowledge to conclude that I have something original and important to say about an issue, except in very rare cases where the issue in question is unusually simple. My experience as an expert on political information is that there are far more issues that are more complex than most nonexperts believe than the reverse….

For these reasons, I try to limit my posts on political issues to the following three categories:

1. Issues on which I am an expert (primarily political participation, federalism, and property rights). This is where I have the greatest chance of making an original contribution.

2. Issues on which I’m not officially an expert, but have a lot of knowledge because I follow them closely (i.e. – far more closely than merely reading occasional articles about them in the media or online).

3. Rare cases that fall outside of 1 and 2, where I come up with an original point that other commentators have for some reason ignored.

Have I violated these principles in the four years since I first developed them? Probably. There surely have been situations where I thought that some issue fell under category 2 or 3 when it really didn’t. Even experts on ignorance sometimes overrate their knowledge! […]

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ABA Journal Blawg 100 Amici

I’m sure Our Chief Conspirator is far too shy, modest, and retiring to note that the ABA Journal is inviting people to come and name their favorite legal blogs … but I’m not.

It is an interesting format, actually – it is not an online vote or poll, where the blogs with the most buddies win.  Rather, the editors are making their own judgments, and are asking for responders to say in the comments to the page why they favor this blog, what they like (or don’t) about it.  They’d like to hear from a lot of people, but are interested in what they have to say and are making their own editorial judgments.  (I should add, though, that I am torn between loyalties, as I post here as well as Opinio Juris, the specialty international law professor blog; those of you who read it as well as VC might considering posting about it, too.)

Someone emailed to ask me what law professor blogs (Insta and Althouse aside, and Opinio Juris) I regularly read and routinely check (I don’t use a feed).  Just off the top of my head – I am probably forgetting some:

But that’s not including a bunch of econ and finance blogs, also national security and milblogs; robotics blogs; etc. that I also check regularly.  I read a lot of blogs, probably more than is good for my scholarly productivity. […]

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Bloggers disagree on politics of offshore drilling, and immigration

The latest National Journal poll of political bloggers asked: “With the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, does it make political sense for President Obama to stick to his plans to allow increased oil and gas development along the coasts?” Only 6% of the Left, but 75% of the Right thought that it did still make political sense. I thought it didn’t make political sense, unless the President were ready to make a strong affirmative case: “The president would have to convince the public why some types of new drilling would not pose the same risks that the BP well did.”

The other question asked what is best for the Democratic/Republican parties this year on immigration. Two-thirds of the Left thought Democrats would be best off with a pathway to citizenship, and without any tougher enforcement. Nobody on the Right thought that would be a good idea for Republicans. The Right bloggers split between citizenship + enforcement, enforcement without citizenship, and “stay away from the issue.”

My vote was for the middle choice, at least as the essential first step: “Effectively closing the border has to come first. Offering citizenship but without effectively securing the border would simply repeat the mistake of 1986 and result in even more illegal immigration.”

This poll marked the last of the National Journal’s weekly blogger polls as part of NJ’s “Blogometer.” The National Journal is undergoing major budget cuts, and Blogometer is disappearing, although parts of its will be folded into other National Journal coverage.

Far worse, from a social utility point of view, than the disappearance of the blogger polls is National Journal cutting Stuart Taylor’s weekly column. Taylor is one of the best legal journalists in the United States, and he will continue to write for a variety of other outlets. However, the […]

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“Cyber Civil Rights” Symposium

Danielle Citron

Last year, Maryland law professor Danielle Citron published “Cyber Civil Rights” in the BU Law Review. Here’s the abstract:

Social networking sites and blogs have increasingly become breeding grounds for anonymous online groups that attack women, people of color, and members of other traditionally disadvantaged groups. . . . Attackers manipulate search engines to reproduce their lies and threats for employers and clients to see, creating digital “scarlet letters” that ruin reputations.

. . . .

General criminal statutes and tort law proscribe much of the mobs’ destructive behavior, but the harm they inflict also ought to be understood and addressed as civil rights violations. Civil rights suits reach the societal harm that would otherwise go unaddressed and would play a crucial expressive role. Acting against these attacks does not offend First Amendment principles when they consist of defamation, true threats, intentional infliction of emotional distress, technological sabotage, and bias-motivated abuse aimed to interfere with a victim’s employment opportunities. To the contrary, it helps preserve vibrant online dialogue and promote a culture of political, social, and economic equality.

Citron’s article detailed some particular cases of such abuses. As she acknowledged, the mob actions are solidly within the scope of existing criminal law and tort law. Nevertheless, she made the case that federal civil rights laws should be revised to cover Internet threats and defamation–since civil rights statutes provide attorney’s fees for a successful plaintiff, and since prosecutors would be more likely to bring criminal charges if the underlying offense has a civil rights association. She arguds that “Just as changing circumstances justified curtailing the right of contracts in the 1930s, today’s networked environment warrants a rejection of free speech absolutism.”

Citron also proposed that website operators be civilly liable for the content of postings on their […]

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Joseph Bottum Spots Eugene Volokh Changing the Culture

Instapundit points us in the direction of Joseph Bottum’s First Things blog post yesterday; also Althouse’s comment:

[W]hile I was [at NYU Law School] I saw posters for a lecture this afternoon by Eugene Volokh on the structure of slippery-slope arguments.  … the posters for Volokh’s talk read, as I remember: “Founder of The Volokh Conspiracy blog and Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law at UCLA.”

I wonder how the Schwartz family feels about that. Indeed, I wonder how UCLA law school feels. For that matter, I wonder how I feel. Since when has even a blog as interesting as the The Volokh Conspiracy trumped, for a law-school audience, a chair at a major law school and all the speaker’s academic publications?  A fascinating change in the culture of things.

Well, heck (and  not speaking for Eugene), I feel pretty darn good as a coat-tails participant at VC! […]

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Starting next week, I’m going to be dividing some of my blogging time as I try out co-blogging over at SCOTUSblog. SCOTUSblog is bolstering its commentary and analysis role, and as a part of that I’m going to be blogging over there occasionally about various aspects of the Court’s criminal law docket (and especially the Fourth Amendment and consitutional criminal procedure cases). My initial plan is to either cross-post those contributions at the VC or at least link to them to alert readers here. Of course, as with many blogging developments, this is an experiment. My previous forays into solo blogging and another group blog didn’t last very long, so we’ll see how this one goes, too. But I’m excited about the opportunity: SCOTUSblog has been one of my daily reads for years, and I think it has a unique and important niche in the legal blogging world. […]

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An Exchange on Comment Moderating

A few minutes ago I deleted a comment from a conservative commenter, “Gaydude,” that was an obnoxious and personal attack in response to liberal commenter “ArthurKirkland.” GayDude then wrote another comment directed to me that I think deserves a wider audience:

Wait, my post criticizing Arthur’s post was removed? Oh, right, this is an Orin Kerr thread. And now I will post a comment that is much less civil than what I posted before, but it needs to be said, even if it gets me banned. (And hopefully it will.) A message to Orin…

Orin Kerr, in your quest to prove how fair you are (due to your own Kennedy-esque insecurity that stems from not being loved enough by others in your field), you insist on trying to make everything look fair, even when the situation doesn’t call for it . Notice how you make a comment about both DailyKos and RedState. In this situation, it’s perhaps not too bad, but you do this all the time. If you criticize something from the Left, you will always do the same to something from the Right, even if the things or comments or posters in question are not at all the same in terms of degree, just so you can feel better about yourself. It is not intelligent moderation.

On a side note, this kind of silly fairness desire (that is really not fair at all in reality) is exactly what leads to silly rules in schools, in crime & punishment, etc. You are probably against people who shut off their brains in those areas, but fail to see how your kind of “liberal” fairness thinking is actually quite similar to those who do those things (though the reasons for the desire may be different).

Do not confuse this behavior with


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Normblog’s Interviews with Prominent Political Bloggers

Some of our readers are probably already aware of it, but I only recently found out about Norman Geras’ interesting archive of interviews with prominent political bloggers. Among many others, there is a recent interview with the VC’s own David Bernstein, and earlier ones with Jonathan Adler and Eugene Volokh. In reading the interviews with bloggers of widely differing political ideologies, I found it interesting that such a high percentage chose the spread of weapons of mass destruction as “the main threat to the future peace and security of the world.” There seems to be a cross-ideological consensus on this point, which is perhaps noteworthy. WMD proliferation would also be high on my list of dangers, especially if it becomes easy for individuals or small groups to acquire them. […]

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