Volokh commits blogging’s Unforgiven Sin

Eugene Volokh has second thoughts. He changes his mind in the face of argument.
What does he think he is: some sort of INTELLECTUAL? We don’t need his kind in Blogland.

I suppose that Eugene Volokh might eventually have been forgiven in Blogland for his lapse of judgment in endorsing extreme penalties in extreme cases. At least, I would have hoped so.

But he has now gone beyond bad judgment, or even bad taste, and committed an unforgivable breach of blogging ethics. Not merely has he seriously weighed the arguments against a position he prefers — this, though it sits on the ethical borderline, is admittedly a valid rhetorical device — Volokh has actually changed his mind in the face of argument, admitting that the institutional point made by Brad DeLong and elaborated in this space counts decisively against his proposal.

Note that this is no mere factual correction; anyone might be forced to engage in one, though the real Masters of the Web retract as seldom, and as grudgingly, as possible. This is an actual admission by a blogger that he is not infallible.

Such an admission undercuts the entire purpose of blogging, which is the competitive expression of unchangeable opinion accompanied by personal abuse. Without the unchangeable opinion, the personal abuse would be pointless; what value is there in questioning your opponents’ intelligence, morals, and sanity based on their opinions if you admit that your own opinions are not unvarying parts of your inmost self, but mere possessions, which you can change as easily as you change your clothing? If a blogger “concedes error,” as Volokh admittedly has done, what won’t he concede?

Perhaps such wishy-washiness is considered acceptable behavior in Prof. Volokh’s ivory tower, but here in the real world it simply will not do. I’ve defended him in the past, even when we disagreed. But I won’t defend him now. His expulsion from the International Association of On-Line Pontificators is a foregone conclusion, and my vote will be cast, albeit regretfully, with what I expect to be the overwhelming majority.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com