Peter Bergen argues in a piece for CNN, that it was inevitable that one day actual violence over speech that Muslims find offensive would reach our shores. Now it’s happened. On Sunday, two gunmen opened fire at the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” in Garland, Texas. Police shot and killed the two gunmen. One security guard was injured, but it appears the injuries were not serious. We can be thankful for that. Must Americans now become accustomed to this sort of violence?
I’ve recently given a couple talks called “Free Speech Under Siege” in which I argue that the primary threat to free speech today comes not from terrorist attacks, such as those in Paris in January, but from an unwillingness to defend free speech as a right. That’s not to say terrorist attacks aren’t significant — ask Flemming Rose or cartoonist Molly Norris how free they feel to speak after being threatened with death for daring to publish drawings of Muhammad. My point is that the threats and killings can only succeed in chilling our speech if we let them. One way we do that is by appeasing those who resort to threats and violence.
The attack on Charlie Hebdo reminds us that Islamic terrorism remains a very dangerous phenomenon in the world. The reaction to the attack, and particularly the expressions of support for freedom of speech, are cause for some hope, but attitudes about Islamist doctrine and the terrorism it spawns still range from dangerously naïve to frighteningly sympathetic.
There’s something entirely fitting in the fact that the most sensible thing said about Sony’s decision not to release The Interview comes from a place not known for saying sensible things — Hollywood itself — while the most risible comments come from a place that is supposed to have serious responses to things like foreign nations threatening American citizens for exercising their constitutional rights. That’s Washington, D.C. (in case you’ve forgotten that it’s supposed to be a serious place). Comparing the two views expressed is illuminating and goes a long way toward explaining why North Korea felt free to threaten Sony — indeed, all of us—in the first place.
Economist John Cochrane has a terrific op-ed on inequality in The Wall Street Journal in which he identifies money in politics as the chief target of the inequality warriors, as he calls the critics of income inequality. When you get past their bogus economic arguments, says Cochran, “most inequality warriors get down to the real problem they see: money in politics. They think money is corrupting politics, and they want to take away the money to purify the politics.”
“In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by power. America has set the example . . . of charters of power granted by liberty.”
James Madison wrote these words in 1792, five years after the Constitution began its journey toward ratification by the states. Today marks the 227th anniversary of that beginning — the signing of the Constitution by the 39 delegates to the Philadelphia convention. Madison’s statement is one of my favorites because it conveys, more than any other quote I can think of, the proper relationship between individuals and government, which is a key part of the profound moral significance of the Constitution and the government it created.
The Wall Street Journal offers a good take down of the arguments for the Export-Import Bank, which the House just reauthorized for another 6 months. One irony in this debate, which the Journal notes: many on the left, including the Obama administration, Elizabeth Warren, and Nancy Pelosi, support the Ex-Im bank despite their real antipathy for business and their professed antipathy for “the rich” obtaining benefits at the expense of everyone else. As the Journal explains, “these liberals are friends of business only when government is allocating the favors.” That’s true, but the issue goes deeper than handing out favors.
I had a strong sense of déjà vu when I read this Wall Street Journal editorial about Argentina’s harassment of a U.S. printing company for closing a plant in Buenos Aires. Why did this sound so familiar?
In Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, Alex Tabarok reviews a new book that provides yet another glimpse into the inner workings of our destructive regulatory state. The book, called Innovation Breakdown: How the FDA and Wall Street Cripple Medical Advances, chronicles the fight by a company called MELA Sciences to win approval from the FDA for a noninvasive method for detecting skin cancer. Initially enthusiastic about the product, the FDA later turned against the company when a new FDA director with a less favorable view of business came on board. The author of the book, who was the company’s CEO at the time (he has since retired), spent a year of his life at great personal cost fighting with the FDA before prevailing.