As I noted in this space the other day, GWU law professor John Banzhaf on Monday sent out a press release boasting of having assigned undergrads to lobby for New York City-style soda bans or, alternatively, other ventures in “obesity policy.” Reactions include Katharine Mangu-Ward at Reason (“I’m gonna guess there aren’t a lot of libertarians in his class”), George Leef at Phi Beta Cons, and UCLA law professor Stephen Bainbridge:
I wonder what people would say if I made my students write letters to their congressman supporting Senator Shelby’s Dodd-Frank corrections bills? Actually, I don’t wonder. They’d say I was abusing my power. And they’d be right. Only someone blinded by their own self-righteous arrogance would fail to see the gross impropriety here.
Now Banzhaf has sent out another press release, which aside from tossing an inaccurate brickbat or two at my motivations for writing about him, takes care to specify—as his Monday press release did not—that students in the class are free to propose lobbying for at least some ideas that might count as deregulatory. The two examples he gives are as follows: “students could also ask legislators to reduce limits on the sale of items from food trucks [or] cut back on unnecessary food-related regulations.”
Whether liberty-minded students could actually get course credit for lobbying against food-related positions that Banzhaf favors—as distinct from seeking out some subtopic in the field where their views and his happen to coincide—remains unclear. If they are free to lobby against policies identified with the Obama administration and NYC’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, then that makes utter nonsense of the headline bannered over the press release Banzhaf sent out on March 4: “Undergrads Required to Lobby for Obama Policy.” So which is it?
[cross-posted, with some adaptation, from Overlawyered]