I know I'm swimming against the tide here--because both left and right want it for their own purposes--but perhaps it's time to take away the FCC's power to regulate broadcast content (as far as I'm concerned, the First Amendment always prohibited them from having that power, but that's a minority view).A later e-mail:
As I attempt to transgress the boundaries of left and rightEugene Volokh talks about how antidiscrimination laws are restraints on liberty. He also posts on "Will judges be barred from participating in the Boy Scouts?" and "Sexual orientation discrimination and race discrimination" (the latter of which makes the interesting points that people are up in arms about the fact that the Scouts -- the Boy Scouts at least -- discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, but don’t bat an eye at the fact that their very basis is sex discrimination).
What would be the reaction to some UMass-Amherst guy bringing this to a Smith WST class?
As a follow-up, my father e-mailed me this about "hostile work environment"and finally this, explaining how the last one tied in:
I was trying to tie them all together with the idea that legally requiring people to "be nice" leads to what may also be considered civil liberties violations. If you can't "incite racial hatred," then you may violate the law if you say that there are IQ differences between races. If you can't create a "hostile work environment," then you may violate the law if you make sexually themed jokes. If it is against the law to treat gay and straight people differently, then it becomes illegal to make certain decisions about who you want to associate with (to flip it backwards, "gay bars" might well be illegal).
Moreover, the possibility of legal liability can have effects well beyond people who are breaking the law. People can get sued, be investigated, or brought up on charges even if what they do or say isn't actually against the law. This affects their liberty and enjoyment of life. Further, in order to avoid such an outcome, they may try to avoid saying or doing various things which are perfectly legal. In First Amendment law, this goes by the name "chilling effect." (I think the word "chilling" in the last sentence here was an allusion).
It is an article of faith on most college campuses that 1) civil liberties are a great thing and 2) the great danger to them comes from the right. I was trying to suggest that 2a) the greater danger may actually be from the left and 1a) sometimes civil liberties are actually kind of ugly. If you really believe that civil liberties are pretty absolute, then you have to oppose hate speech laws, hostile environment laws, and maybe even discrimination laws. If you favor hate speech laws and hostile environment laws, and believe that discrimination laws should be broad and intrustive, then don't pretend you're a civil libertarian.