Tag: john mcginnis

Transparency and Liberty

John McGinnis has some kind words for work I oversee here at Cato in a recent blog post of his entitled: “The Internet–A Technology for Encompassing Interests and Liberty.”

As he points out, the information environment helps determine outcomes in political systems because it controls who is in a position to exercise power.

The history of liberty has been in no small measure the struggle between diffuse and encompassing interests, on the one hand, and special interests, on the other.  Through their concentrated power, special interests seek to use the state to their benefit, while diffuse interests concern the ordinary citizen or taxpayer, or in William Graham Sumner’s arresting phrase, The Forgotten Man. When the printing press was invented, the most important special interests were  primarily the rulers themselves and the aristocrats who supported them. The printing press allowed the middle class to discover and organize around their common interests to sustain a democratic system that limited the exactions of the oligarchs.

But the struggle between diffuse and special interests does not disappear with the rise of democracy. Trade associations, farmers’ associations and unions have leverage with politicians to obtain benefits that the rest of us pay for. As a successor to the printing press, however, the internet advances liberty by continuing to reduce the cost of acquiring information. Such advances help diffuse groups more than special interests.

The Internet is the new printing press, and we’re generating data here at Cato that should allow it to have its natural, salutary effects for liberty.

My favorite current example is the “Appropriate Appropriations?” page published by the Washington Examiner. It allows you to easily see what representatives have introduced bills proposing to spend taxpayer money, information that—believe it or not—was hard to come by until now.

In John McGinnis, we have a legal scholar who recognizes the potential ramifications for governance of our entry into the information age. Read his whole post and, for more in this area, his book, Accelerating Democracy: Transforming Governance Through Technology.

Schools for Misrule Reviewed

Today was a banner day for my new book on legal academia, Schools for Misrule. It was reviewed at the Wall Street Journal by John McGinnis, professor of law at Northwestern, and at the Weekly Standard by George Leef, director of research at the North Carolina-based John Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. (One or both reviews may be behind subscriber screens.) Both reviews were highly favorable.

McGinnis:

American law schools wield more social influence than any other part of the American university. In ‘Schools for Misrule,’ Walter Olson offers a fine dissection of these strangely powerful institutions. One of his themes is that law professors serve the interests of the legal profession above all else; they seek to enlarge the scope of the law, creating more work for lawyers even as the changes themselves impose more costs on society.

Leef:

At most law schools—and emphatically at elite ones such as Obama’s Harvard—students are immersed in a bath of statist theories that rationalize ever-expanding government control over nearly every aspect of life. … They learn that the concepts of limited government and federalism are outmoded antiques that merely defend unjust privilege. … Schools for Misrule explains how most of the damaging ideas that lawyers, politicians, and judges are eager to fasten upon society originate in our law schools. …

The most recent explosion of legal activism involves making the United States subject to international law. Olson notes that at a New York University Law School symposium, speakers declared that international law requires nations to guarantee all people the right to health, education, “decent” work, and freedom from “severe social exclusion.” Columbia has created a campaign called “Bring Human Rights Home,” which is intended to generate pressure to make American policies consonant with the collectivist notions of “the international community.”

For readers who’d like to hear more about the ideas in the book, I’ll be giving lunchtime talks tomorrow (Tuesday) at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. and on Thursday at the Heartland Institute in Chicago. And on Thursday night I’m scheduled to appear on one of radio’s premier discussion shows, WGN’s Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg. The book as of this afternoon had reached #1,009 in the Amazon standings, #1 in the One-L category, #2 in Legal Education (following an LSAT prep book), and #7 in Law (with only one policy-oriented book, The New Jim Crow, ahead of it; the others are true-crime and student-prep books).