Obama has nominated Cass Sunstein, who he knows from the University of Chicago, to be “regulatory czar.” Apparently, Sunstein has proposed that web sites be required to link to opposing opinions. He has argued that the Internet is anti-democratic because users can choose to view only those opinions that they want to see, and has gone so far as to say:
A system of limitless individual choices, with respect to communications, is not necessarily in the interest of citizenship and self-government,” he wrote. “Democratic efforts to reduce the resulting problems ought not be rejected in freedom’s name.
The forced-linking proposal makes about as much sense as requiring that when you buy a political book at a bookstore, the store must also require you to buy books of contrary views. (And anyhow, how to you force the person to read the book or follow the link? Will there be a test? Penalties for failing to pass? Withdrawal of book-buying or web-browsing “privileges?”) Sunstein’s proposal is almost certainly unconstitutional–moreover, it is philosophically primitive. There are not one or two dissenting views from any opinion: there are thousands of them, incorporating widely differing conceptual frameworks. Who, in Sunstein’s world, would decide which views, as expressed by which authors, would be required to be linked? Probably either a government agency or a “service” run by a politically-well-connected corporation. A better way to suppress innovative thought would be difficult to imagine.
Sunstein has apparently now rethought his proposal, explaining that it would be “too difficult to regulate [the Internet] in a way that would respond to those concerns.” He also admitted that the proposal would have serious constitutional issues. But the fact that he ever made such a proposal in the first place raises serious questions about whether he should be in a position of governmental power.
The “regulatory czar” position for Sunstein was troublesome enough: I now see that he is being considered for the Supreme Court that is opening up as a result of David Souter’s retirement.
Sunstein is clearly a smart guy, but as a generally-favorable BusinessWeek review of his book (“Going to Extremes”) points out:
There’s a whiff of elitism in Sunstein’s apparent call for enlightened experts (like himself) to gently correct the cockeyed masses.
I’d say it’s more than a whiff.
(via Kathy Shaidle)
Also of great concern should be the nomination of Harold Koh as legal advisor to the Obama State Department. Koh has spoken strongly in favor of “transnational” jurisprudence, meaning the incorporation of foreigh legal principles into U.S. judicial decisions, and has spoken of “America’s human-rights narcissism.”
PowerLine quotes Koh:
lawyers, scholars, and activists. . .should make better use of trans-national legal process to press our own government to avoid the most negative and damaging features of American exceptionalism.
and goes on to point out that:
(Sunstein’s) approach stands in opposition to the traditional, democratic view that the United States should determine for itself, through its political branches, what its laws will be and whether (or to what extent) international law shall be incorporated into its legal system.