Tuesday, December 28, 2004

On "You Can't Say That"

I've finished Bernstein's "You Can't Say That." I came away with depressing litany of attacks on First Amendment rights but also reason for optimism: antidiscrimination laws and their interpretation can be fixed by legislatures. We don't have to rely on constitutional amendment or the de facto equivalent of appointing/electing judges willing to overturn constitutional precedents we don't like.

Can this be achieved? The best chance is always with some particularly outrageous case whipping up public sentiment, but perhaps more "phlegmatic tolerance" by all citizens, as Bernstein advocates, is necessary if we want to go further than getting more legislative exemptions to antidiscrimination laws for political powerful groups.

Bernstein also hopes ACLU will redevote itself to civil liberteries. I hope so too, but I'm pessimistic. Personnel is policy, after all. I think the best one can hope for is a schism; a purge is not realistic. The resulting pro-civil liberties group would not have the same prestigue, but it would be more capable of forming coalitions with other civil liberties supporters on the right, and therefore might prove even more effective than the current ACLU, especially when Republicans control Congress.

In other news, I got "The Bell Curve" as a late Christmas present. Much good reading lies ahead.

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