YouTube Video: Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom

Dinner Topics for Thursday

YouTube Video: Milton Freedman, Capitalism and Freedom

From Rush Limbaugh Radio

miltonfriedman2One sound bite is two minutes of Milton Friedman schooling Phil Donahue and his audience in greed and capitalism and virtue.

RUSH:  [Obama] was quoting Reverend Wright, and he said that’s for me, man, I love that.  White folks’ greed runs a world in need.  So let’s go to 1979, ancient times for many of you.  We may as well be going back to the Roman Coliseum for this.  Nineteen seventy nine, I was 28.  Ancient times for many of you.  Phil Donahue interviewing Milton Friedman, and they had this exchange.  And Donahue starts off wanting to know about greed and capitalism.  Here it is.  And listen to this.

DONAHUE:  When you see around the globe the maldistribution of wealth, the desperate plight of millions of people in underdeveloped countries, when you see so few haves and so many have-nots, when you see the greed and the concentration of power, did you ever have a moment of doubt about capitalism and whether greed’s a good idea to run on?

Greed Definition

FRIEDMAN:  Well, first of all, tell me, is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed?  You think Russia doesn’t run on greed?  You think China doesn’t run on greed?  What is greed?  Of course none of us are greedy. It’s only the other fellow who’s greedy.

The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests.  The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus.  Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat.  Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way.  In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about, the only cases in recorded history are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade.  If you want to know where the masses are worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that.

So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear that there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.

DONAHUE:  But it seems to reward not virtue as much as ability to manipulate the system.

Virtue Definition

FRIEDMAN:  And what does reward virtue?  Do you think the communist commissar rewards virtue?  Do you think Hitler rewards virtue?  Do you think American presidents reward virtue?  Do they choose their appointees on the basis of the virtue of the people appointed or on the basis of their political clout?  Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest?  You know, I think you’re taking a lot of things for granted.  Just tell me where in the world you find these angels who are going to organize society for us.

DONAHUE:  Well —

FRIEDMAN:  I don’t even trust you to do that.

RUSH:  Milton Friedman back in 1979 schooling Phil Donahue, and everybody else who heard that on the notions of virtue and greed and just basically upsetting Phil’s applecart.  Phil wasn’t smart enough to know it was happening. He’s still running around lamenting the accident of birth. If he’d been 30 miles south he would have grown up in poverty.  Anyway, we wanted to play that for you and recognize Milton Friedman.

miltonfriedmanMilton Friedman:  “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there will be a shortage of sand.” 

 Milton Friedman:  “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” 

Another Milton Friedman quote:  “Most of the energy of political work is devoted to correcting the effects of mismanagement of government.”  

Boy, isn’t that true? Pass another law.  Government comes along and creates a program.  The program is an absolute disaster.  Government says, “That’s gotta get fixed.”  Government says, “Okay, we’ll fix it.”  And it compounds itself, one error atop another. (Rush)

Another Milton Friedman quote:  “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”  

I’ll tell you, the guy was great.  He was a genius.  He lived into his late eighties.  He would have been a hundred years old this week. (Rush)

Dinner Talk

1. Who does Mr. Friedman say is greedy?

2. Do you think political self-interest is better than economic self-interest? Why or why not?

3. According to Mr. Friedman, which system fosters a stronger economy— management by government bureaucracies (socialism), or free enterprise? Why?

Truth about Net Neutrality: Net Neutrality explained—It stifles Internet Freedom

Truth about Net Neutrality:

Net Neutrality explained—It stifles Internet Freedom

Firefox has been pushing Net Neutrality hard. On their home page, they gave an option to contact the FCC and tell them what you think about Net Neutrality. I made a comment opposing it for the reasons given below. After I wrote it, Firefox urged me to share it on email and social media. They had a canned email to share, but it was PRO-Net Neutrality. Firefox would not let me change  their misguided political bias in my own message. This is an example of how Net Neutrality, which is a creation of Obama, will  skew Internet Freedom by eliminating competition. In fact, take note all you iPhone users, if Net Neutrality had been in place in 2007, you would have no iPhone today!

The Brilliance of Professor Hazlett’s Book

Rush Limbaugh

RUSH: I spoke about my friend Professor Hazlett’s book. It’s… Let me grab the actual copy of it. Switch the graphic to the professor’s book.

We’ve actually got it ready to go. If you’re watching on the Dittocam, you can see it there. It’s Thomas Winslow Hazlett. Professor Hazlett, my old buddy from Sacramento. The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone. Now, I’m recommending the book here. It’s not specifically and only about net neutrality. It’s one of the greatest ways that you can learn about government regulation — particularly of communications and technology — and how it stifles growth.

History of Net Regulation

It does expose net neutrality for what it really is, as opposed to what people think that it is. A lot of media regulation is dated back to an act from 1934. It hasn’t been modernized since. It’s punitive, it’s old-fashioned, and it is unworkable, and it’s still being used to plug in things like net neutrality, which is the exact opposite of what the proponents want you to think that it is. The way to look at this is: Look at all the choice that we have in technology today and communications. Look at all of the choices versus what it was just 30 years ago. Thirty years ago, you had three… Well, if you count PBS, you had four.

You had four television networks in all of America, and you had one cable news channel with CNN. You had radio, which was so regulated that it wasn’t allowed and permitted to get into opinionated programming because of something called the Fairness Doctrine. It was very limiting. It put limits on station operators and owners. It wasn’t worth the hassle to engage in the kind of programming that exists on radio today.

Internet Freedom because of Absence of Government Regulation

Today we have millions of options for digital entertainment. And it’s all in your back pocket now. It’s all on your phone. You can watch anything from anywhere in the world. You can call anybody from anywhere in the world for a pittance, for a relative pittance. And most people think that the government is a minor player in this. And when it comes to the internet, they have been.

One of the reasons the internet has exploded and one of the reasons there is so much diversity and so much competition and why so much of the content is free, is because the government was caught totally off guard by it. And by the time the internet grew and expanded, the genie was out of the bottle. Net neutrality is nothing more than an attempt to get the government back in charge of the internet and regulating it under false premise.

And for people that want government in charge of everything, under the premise that only government can make things fair, and only government can make things equal. You know, net neutrality is a very susceptible thing. But it is the exact opposite of what net neutrality is. Net neutrality is an attempt by the government to grab regulatory power over what you have been able to do prior, which is buy what you want, watch what you want, go where you want, pay for what you want to pay for.

You’ve had a smorgasbord. We all have things that we can choose from, and that will change if the government is allowed, just by its very nature and existence, to start regulating this stuff under the false premise that none of this is fair.

Do you realize one of the great points Professor Hazlett makes in his book, The Political Spectrum — if net neutrality as it is advocated today, had been in place in 2007, the iPhone would not have been permitted.

And if net neutrality had been in place in 2007-2008, it would have been next to impossible to pass the regulatory hurdles to get the thing built and sold because it would have been said in one way or another: anti-competitive, unfair. The original price was five and six hundred bucks. That would not have been permitted. Any number of things.

Gallery

History Facts: Judeo-Christian Culture Pushing Back against Globalization in European Union

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History Facts: Judeo-Christian Culture Pushing Back against Globalization in European Union “I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail. Our people will thrive. And our civilization will triumph. … Continue reading

History Facts: Snopes Bias and Islam Founder

History Facts,

Critical Thinking Skills

Snopes Bias and Islam Founder

Truth Matters—Discern it. The billboard does not name the subject . . . but truth is. . .

the truth hurts too much to ignore and EVERYONE knows who it is.

Snopes: The Left’s “Fact Checker” That Carries Water For Muhammad

Robert Spencer

The self-proclaimed fact-checker Snopes.com has been harshly criticized for its Leftist bias, and as is so often the case, a tilt to the Left also means a willingness to foster ignorance and complacency about the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat. After a billboard went up in Indiana pointing out six unsavory aspects of the life of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, Snopes labeled the billboard’s charges “Mostly False” – but that label applies far more accurately to the Snopes report than to the billboard.

Complete article:

Snopes: The Left’s “Fact Checker” That Carries Water For Muhammad

 

Moral support:

Michigan Gov. Signs Law Making Female Genital Mutilation a Felony

Moral Support: Congress Bills, President Trump seek to end Human Trafficking

Moral Support:

Congress Bills, President Trump seek to end Human Trafficking

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed three bills that seek to end human trafficking, and the President is urging the Senate to pass these bills so that he may sign them into law.

Gallery

Western Culture Dinner Topics Newsletter: American Exceptionalism

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Western Culture Dinner Topics Newsletter: American Exceptionalism July 2017 Welcome to Western Culture Dinner Topics!  TRY TO IMAGINE THE WORLD WITHOUT AMERICA.[1] I know, a few people with very loud voices, some leading to violent action, continue to hate America … Continue reading

History Facts: Economy, Taxation, and Integrity

History Facts:

Economy, Taxation, and Integrity

Calvin Coolidge represents the exact opposite of President Obama. Coolidge had integrity. He deserves a lot more respect than he ever got. ~C.A. Davidson

“Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.”

key“We must have no carelessness in our dealings with public property or the expenditure of public money. Such a condition is characteristic of undeveloped people, or of a decadent generation.” ~Calvin Coolidge

Senator Selden Spencer once took a walk with Coolidge around the White House grounds. To cheer the President up, Spencer pointed to the White House and asked playfully, “Who lives there?” “Nobody,” Coolidge replied. “They just come and go.”

It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones. ~Calvin Coolidge

Amity Shlaes
Author, Coolidge

calvincoolidgeCalvin Coolidge and the Moral Case for Economy

AMITY SHLAES is a syndicated columnist for Bloomberg, a director of the Four Percent Growth Project at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, and a member of the board of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation. She has served as a member of the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal and as a columnist for the Financial Times, and is a recipient of the Hayek Prize and the Frederic Bastiat Prize for free-market journalism. She is the author of four books, Germany: The Empire Within, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, The Greedy Hand: How Taxes Drive Americans Crazy and What to Do About It, and Coolidge.

The following is adapted from a talk given at Hillsdale College on January 27, 2013, during a conference on “The Federal Income Tax: A Centenary Consideration,” co-sponsored by the Center for Constructive Alternatives and the Ludwig von Mises Lecture Series.


WITH THE FEDERAL DEBT spiraling out of control, many Americans sense an urgent need to find a political leader who is able to say “no” to spending. Yet they fear that finding such a leader is impossible. Conservatives long for another Ronald Reagan. But is Reagan the right model? He was of course a tax cutter, reducing the top marginal rate from 70 to 28 percent. But his tax cuts—which vindicated supply-side economics by vastly increasing federal revenue—were bought partly through a bargain with Democrats who were eager to spend that revenue. Reagan was no budget cutter—indeed, the federal budget rose by over a third during his administration.

An alternative model for conservatives is Calvin Coolidge. President from 1923 to 1929, Coolidge sustained a budget surplus and left office with a smaller budget than the one he inherited. Over the same period, America experienced a proliferation of jobs, a dramatic increase in the standard of living, higher wages, and three to four percent annual economic growth. And the key to this was Coolidge’s penchant for saying “no.” If Reagan was the Great Communicator, Coolidge was the Great Refrainer.

Enter Coolidge
Following World War I, the federal debt stood ten times higher than before the war, and it was widely understood that the debt burden would become unbearable if interest rates rose. At the same time, the top income tax rate was over 70 percent, veterans were having trouble finding work, prices had risen while wages lagged, and workers in Seattle, New York, and Boston were talking revolution and taking to the streets. The Woodrow Wilson administration had nationalized the railroads for a time at the end of the war, and had encouraged stock exchanges to shut down for a time, and Progressives were now pushing for state or even federal control of water power and electricity. The business outlook was grim, and one of the biggest underlying problems was the lack of an orderly budgeting process: Congress brought proposals to the White House willy-nilly, and they were customarily approved.

The Republican Party’s response in the 1920 election was to campaign for smaller government and for a return to what its presidential candidate, Warren Harding, dubbed “normalcy”—a curtailing of government interference in the economy to create a predictable environment in which business could confidently operate. Calvin Coolidge, a Massachusetts governor who had gained a national reputation by facing down a Boston police strike—“There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time,” he had declared—was chosen to be Harding’s running mate. And following their victory, Harding’s inaugural address set a different tone from that of the outgoing Wilson administration (and from that of the Obama administration today): “No altered system,” Harding said, “will work a miracle. Any wild experiment will only add to the confusion. Our best assurance lies in efficient administration of our proven system.”

One of Harding’s first steps was to shepherd through Congress the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, under which the executive branch gained authority over and took responsibility for the budget, even to the point of being able to impound money after it was budgeted. This legislation also gave the executive branch a special budget bureau—the forerunner to today’s Office of Management and Budget—over which Harding named a flamboyant Brigadier General, Charles Dawes, as director. Together they proceeded to summon department staff and their bosses to semiannual meetings at Continental Hall, where Dawes cajoled and shamed them into making spending cuts. In addition, Harding pushed through a tax cut, lowering the top rate to 58 percent; and in a move toward privatization, he proposed to sell off naval petroleum reserves in Wyoming to private companies.

Unfortunately, some of the men Harding appointed to key jobs proved susceptible to favoritism or bribery, and his administration soon became embroiled in scandal. In one instance, the cause of privatization sustained damage when it became clear that secret deals had taken place in the leasing of oil reserves at Teapot Dome. Then in the summer of 1923, during a trip out West to get away from the scandals and prepare for a new presidential campaign, Harding died suddenly.

Enter Coolidge, whose personality was at first deemed a negative—his face, Alice Roosevelt Longworth said, “looked as though he had been weaned on a pickle.” But canny political leaders, including Supreme Court Justice and former President William Howard Taft, quickly came to respect the new president. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, after visiting the White House a few times that August, noted that whereas Harding had never been alone, Coolidge often was; that whereas Harding was partial to group decisions, Coolidge made decisions himself; and most important, that whereas Harding’s customary answer was “yes,” Coolidge’s was “no.”

The former governor of Massachusetts was in his element when it came to budgeting. Within 24 hours of arriving back in Washington after Harding’s death, he met with his own budget director, Herbert Lord, and together they went on offense, announcing deepened cuts in two politically sensitive areas: spending on veterans and District of Columbia public works. In his public statements, Coolidge made clear he would have scant patience with anyone who didn’t go along: “We must have no carelessness in our dealings with public property or the expenditure of public money. Such a condition is characteristic of undeveloped people, or of a decadent generation.”

If Harding’s budget meetings had been rough, Coolidge’s were rougher. Lord first advertised a “Two Percent Club,” for executive branch staffers who managed to save two percent in their budgets. Then a “One Percent Club,” for those who had achieved two or more already. And finally a “Woodpecker Club,” for department heads who kept chipping away. Coolidge did not even find it beneath his pay grade to look at the use of pencils in the government: “I don’t know if I ever indicated to the conference that the cost of lead pencils to the government per year is about $125,000,” he instructed the press in 1926. “I am for economy, and after that I am for more economy,” he told voters.

Coolidge in Command
“It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones,” Coolidge had once advised his father. And indeed, while Harding had vetoed only six bills, Coolidge vetoed 50—including farming subsidies, even though he came from farming country. (“Farmers never had made much money,” he told a guest, and he didn’t see there was much the government could rightly do about it.) He also vetoed veterans’ pensions and government entry into the utilities sector.

The Purpose of Tax Cuts

In short, Coolidge didn’t favor tax cuts as a means to increase revenue or to buy off Democrats. He favored them because they took government, the people’s servant, out of the way of the people. And this sense of government as servant extended to his own office.

Senator Selden Spencer once took a walk with Coolidge around the White House grounds. To cheer the President up, Spencer pointed to the White House and asked playfully, “Who lives there?” “Nobody,” Coolidge replied. “They just come and go.”

But as unpopular as he was in Washington, Coolidge proved enormously popular with voters. In 1924, the Progressive Party ran on a platform of government ownership of public power and a return to government ownership of railroads. Many thought the Progressive Party might split the Republican vote as it had in 1912, handing the presidency to the Democrats. As it happened, Progressive candidate Robert LaFollette indeed claimed more than 16 percent of the vote.

Yet Coolidge won with an absolute majority, gaining more votes than the Progressive and the Democrat combined. And in 1928, when Coolidge decided not to run for reelection despite the urging of party leaders who looked on his reelection as a sure bet, Herbert Hoover successfully ran on a pledge to continue Coolidge’s policies.

Unfortunately, Hoover didn’t live up to his pledge. Critics often confuse Hoover’s policies with Coolidge’s and complain that the latter did not prevent the Great Depression. That is an argument I take up at length in my previous book, The Forgotten Man, and is a topic for another day. Here let me just say that the Great Depression was as great and as long in duration as it was because, as economist Benjamin Anderson put it, the government under both Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, unlike under Coolidge, chose to “play God.”

Lessons from Coolidge

Beyond the inspiration of Coolidge’s example of principle and consistency, what are the lessons of his story that are relevant to our current situation? One certainly has to do with the mechanism of budgeting: The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 provided a means for Harding and Coolidge to control the budget and the nation’s debt, and at the same time gave the people the ability to hold someone responsible. That law was gutted in the 1970s, when it became collateral damage in the anti-executive fervor following Watergate. The law that replaced it tilted budget authority back to Congress and has led to over-spending and lack of responsibility.

A second lesson concerns how we look at tax rates. When tax rates are set and judged according to how much revenue they bring in due to the Laffer Curve—which is how most of today’s tax cutters present them, thereby agreeing with tax hikers that the goal of tax policy is to increase revenue—tax policy can become a mechanism to expand government. The goals of legitimate government—American freedom and prosperity—are left by the wayside.

Thus the best case for lower taxes is the moral case—and as Coolidge well understood, a moral tax policy demands tough budgeting.

Finally, a lesson about politics. The popularity of Harding and Coolidge, and the success of their policies—especially Coolidge’s—following a long period of Progressive ascendancy, should give today’s conservatives hope. Coolidge in the 1920s, like Grover Cleveland in the previous century, distinguished government austerity from private-sector austerity, combined a policy of deficit cuts with one of tax cuts, and made a moral case for saying “no.” A political leader who does the same today is likely to find an electorate more inclined to respond “yes” than he or she expects.

Coolidge and Moral Economy, complete article

Moral Support: Supreme Court Victory for Freedom of Speech; Coal Industry revival an Economic Boon

Moral Support

Science Facts

Coal Industry revival an Economic Boon

Salena Zito Reports from Coal Country

Jun 19, 2017

RUSH Limbaugh:

Coal country.

Well, it was announced last week that Trump had opened up essentially a new coal mine, for all intents and purposes. It was a new kind of coal mine. It was in coal country. It was gonna create new jobs that would pay 50 to a hundred thousand dollars a year.

It was ripped to shreds by the media and the climate change crowd. “This is living in the past. Coal is filthy, it’s dirty.” And it turns out that this coal plant is not even gonna be used for energy. This coal is gonna be used in the manufacture of steel, and you’d be amazed at the number of things in your daily life that have steel in them that you can’t do without. But it’s not the kind of coal that’s gonna be used for energy.

And she found that these people think that what’s been reported about their industry and this particular mine that’s going to be opened up, they’re misinformed, they’re missing the boat on this. And they think they are just as legitimately a part of America as journalists are or anybody else is. They resent being laughed at and made fun of. They resent their industry being portrayed as something archaic and dangerous and polluting and an instrument of climate change and global warming.

She goes out and finds these people. And some of the things about this plant that she uncovered are fascinating. The coal from this mine is not going to be used for energy, as I say. Instead, it’s gonna be used for the production of steel for the next 15 years. I don’t know if you knew this or not. Coal is used to make 70% of the steel in the world today. Here’s a list of places it’s found.

It’s found in cars, bicycles. Oh, my, the health crowd loves bicycles. Bicycles are saving the planet. Bicycles are reducing our carbon footprint. Bicycles are part of the quest for good health. Steel is used to make them, meaning coal is necessary. Steel is used in many different areas of public transportation, which the climate change crowd, they also love public transportation. It’s so cool, it’s so chic. It’s like Europe, trains and buses, and it’s really neato. It’s so cool. And of course it gets you out of your filthy, ugly car, and it eliminates planet destruction, and it also puts everybody together and makes them all behave accordingly. Leftists love that.

Wind turbines. The wind turbines that are part of the wind industry, they’re all made with steel. You couldn’t make them without coal.

You think the climate change crowd knows this? Do you think they know that without coal, we wouldn’t have bicycles like we do? We wouldn’t have wind turbines. Medical devices are made with steel. Roads, bridges, appliances, even iPhones and computers all contain steel. This coal plant actually represents modernization. Not a wasteful step back into time.

Supreme Court  Victory for Freedom of Speech

Jun 19, 2017

Rockwell Freedom of Speech

RUSH: In a win for Asian-American rock band The Slants — and this has got possible ramifications, good ones, for the Washington Redskins. The Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot refuse to register trademarks that are considered offensive. The government cannot do that.

 

Betsy DeVos just gave the fight for campus free speech a powerful new ally

The Department of Education administers programs that broaden access to higher education, strengthens the capacity of colleges and universities, and coordinates a number of higher education-related activities with states, according to the department’s website.

 

Adam Kissel, DeVos’ pick, is a 5-year veteran of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), an organization that focuses on free speech and due process on college campuses.

 

Truth Matters: Liberal Lies vs. Citizens United, Freedom of Speech

Truth Matters:

Liberal Lies vs. Citizens United, Freedom of Speech

The Left’s War on Freedom of  Speech

Part 1

Kimberley Strassel
Author, The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech

In the weeks following the Citizens United ruling, the Left settled on a new strategy. If it could no longer use speech laws against its opponents, it would do the next best thing—it would threaten, harass, and intimidate its opponents out of participation.

I like to introduce the topic of free speech with an anecdote about my children. I have three kids, ages twelve, nine, and five. They are your average, normal kids—which means they live to annoy the heck out of each other.

Last fall, sitting around the dinner table, the twelve-year-old was doing a particularly good job at this with his youngest sister. She finally grew so frustrated that she said, “Oliver, you need to stop talking—forever.” This inspired a volley of protests about free speech rights, and ended with them yelling “shut up” at each other. Desperate to stop the fighting and restore order, I asked each of them in turn to tell me what they thought “free speech” meant.

The twelve-year-old went first. A serious and academic child, he gave a textbook definition that included “Congress shall make no law,” an evocation of James Madison, a tutorial on the Bill of Rights, and warnings about “certain exceptions for public safety and libel.” I was happy to know the private-school fees were yielding something.

The nine-year-old went next. A rebel convinced that everyone ignores her, she said that she had no idea what “public safety” or “libel” were, but that “it doesn’t matter, because free speech means there should never be any restrictions on anything that anybody says, anytime or anywhere.” She added that we could all start by listening more to what she says.

Then it was the five-year-old’s turn. You could tell she’d been thinking hard about her answer. She fixed both her brother and sister with a ferocious stare and said: “Free speech is that you can say what you want—as long as I like it.”

It was at this moment that I had one of those sudden insights as a parent. I realized that my oldest was a constitutional conservative, my middle child a libertarian, and my youngest a socialist with totalitarian tendencies.

Citizens United

With that introduction, my main point today is that we’ve experienced over the past eight years a profound shift in our political culture, a shift that has resulted in a significant portion of our body politic holding a five-year-old’s view of free speech.

What makes this shift notable is that unlike most changes in politics, you can trace it back to one day: January 21, 2010, the day the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United ruling and restored free speech rights to millions of Americans.

For nearly 100 years up to that point, both sides of the political aisle had used campaign finance laws—I call them speech laws—to muzzle their political opponents. The Right used them to push unions out of elections. The Left used them to push corporations out of elections. These speech laws kept building and building until we got the mack daddy of them all—McCain-Feingold. It was at this point the Supreme Court said, “Enough.”

A five-judge majority ruled that Congress had gone way too far in violating the Constitution’s free speech protections.

The Citizens United ruling was viewed as a blow for freedom by most on the Right, which had in recent years gotten some free speech religion, but as an unmitigated disaster by the Left. Over the decades, the Left had found it harder and harder to win policy arguments, and had come to rely more and more on these laws to muzzle political opponents. And here was the Supreme Court knocking back those laws, reopening the floodgates for non-profits and corporations to speak freely again in the public arena.

In the Left’s view, the ruling couldn’t have come at a worse time. Remember the political environment in 2010. Democrats were experiencing an enormous backlash against the policies and agenda of the Obama administration. There were revolts over auto bailouts, stimulus spending, and Obamacare. The Tea Party movement was in full swing and vowing to use the midterm elections to effect dramatic change. Democrats feared an electoral tidal wave would sweep them out of Congress.

Unable to Win in the Arena of Ideas, the Left Decides on Strategy of Smear Campaign, Character Assassination

In the weeks following the Citizens United ruling, the Left settled on a new strategy. If it could no longer use speech laws against its opponents,  it would do the next best thing—it would threaten, harass, and intimidate its opponents out of participation. It would send a message: conservatives choosing to exercise their constitutional rights will pay a political and personal price.