When Innovation Collides with Rules, Which Should Prevail?

Businessman drawing on a paper next to green paint splash with blue sky on the background

Regulating cyber-commerce is controversial. The advent of smart phones and web-based interfaces has facilitated many new consumer services. Customers using these digital platforms often insist that existing regulatory models are outmoded and simply shouldn’t apply to new technologies.

As do the companies. When residents of Austin, Texas recently rejected Proposition 1—an ordinance proposed by Uber and Lyft—it generated national attention around this important question: How should a free society deal with innovative new technologies? Should existing regulations apply, should exceptions be made, or should the collision between existing rules and innovation cause us to re-examine the existing rules altogether?

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The End of Conservative Ideology?

11/18/1986-Washington, D.C.-: President Reagan talks with William F. Buckley, Jr. prior to a dinner honoring the latter.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s conquest of the Republican presidential nomination, many wise critics have concluded that the old Buckley-Reagan conservative ideology is dead. The paradoxical reply: It is not dead because the original was not an ideology.

That declaration had always annoyed me in my younger days, when William F. Buckley, Jr. would ceaselessly insist that conservatism was not ideological.

Sure it was. What did Buckley himself write in his Up from Liberalism (1959) about the essence of conservatism? Its principles were set forth therein as “freedom, individuality, the sense of community, the sanctity of the family, the supremacy of conscience, the spiritual view of life,” a strong defense—and all were meaningful “in proportion as political power is decentralized.”

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Hayek and the Family: The Case for Rose-Colored Glasses

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I very much appreciate Scott Yenor’s thoughtful and even-handed review of my book, Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions. The highest compliment I can give him is that if someone asked me what the best criticism of my book is, it would very much be the main line of argument Yenor pursues.

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Chasing Monsters

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The X-Files at its best celebrates that “the truth is out there”—objective, weird, and always slipping from our complete grasp. At its worst, the show makes heroes out of cranks and confuses power for politics.

Over the course of nine seasons and a miniseries now airing on FOX, the show portrays two FBI agents investigating bizarre events. The dour, imaginative Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) partners with the second best sci-fi heroine that has ever been, the calming, rational, and courageous Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson).

There are basically two—and in fact incompatible—kinds of X-Files episodes, with two distinct approaches toward the truth that is “out there.” There are the show’s conspiracy episodes: Is our world controlled by evil cliques manipulating reality and hiding the truth? Then there are what fans call the monster episodes: Is human life by its nature given to evil, good, and in between; to weirdness and wonder, harboring some truths that, happily, remain beyond us?

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Can Social Justice Be Rescued?

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The book Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is isn’t what you think it is. The dust jacket of the latest from Michael Novak (with coauthors Paul Adams and Elizabeth Shaw) promises to rescue the term from “its ideological captors” by clarifying “the true meaning of social justice.”

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The Fertility God of Conservatism

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It is hard to imagine what the world of a conservative intellectual looked like in 1953. In our present age of talk radio (led by Rush Limbaugh), Fox News, national conservative magazines and blogs, and the New York-D.C. axis of Right-leaning think tanks, we regard the conservative movement as ubiquitous—and inextricably linked to politics and public policy.

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Should the Thoughtful Libertarian Be Rationally Pessimistic?

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In 2010, the British science writer Matt Ridley debuted as a classical liberal with his book The Rational Optimist. Ridley’s “coming out” was eventful and exciting for libertarians all over the world. A former staff writer and head of the Washington bureau of The Economist, a successful science author and, more importantly, a gifted narrator, Ridley condensed in his thick book much research and wisdom. The financial crisis appeared to many to have dispensed with free market ideas once and for all. Ridley pointed out that, to the contrary, free markets were actually producing prosperity, food, cleanliness all over the world—particularly for the world’s poor.

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Relativists Get Their Favorite Movie Wrong

Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 classic film, Rashomon

Final grades were due a few days ago, and for those of us who teach, grading season has just come to a close. With visions of student papers dancing in my head, I can’t keep from thinking, Rashomon is a perfect movie for our culture.

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The Fundamental Left-Right Divide

In her first formal appearance as head of the United States Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen obliquely suggested the Fed might not raise its mighty “federal funds” rate to tighten the economy until months after its Quantitative Easing bond purchasing ended completely, coyly portending cheap money indefinitely. The market shuddered but soon calmed at the soothing voice of its controller.

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Can We Finally Retire Scientific Superstition?

What an absolutely astounding admission former Fed boss Alan Greenspan makes about his new book The Map and The Territory: “Not a single major forecaster of note or institution caught it [the 2008 crash]. The Federal Reserve has got the most elaborate econometric model, which incorporates all the newfangled models of how the world works—and it missed it completely. I was actually flabbergasted. It upended my view of how the world worked.”

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