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Fighting for the Marketplace of Ideas

By Mike Signer | April 15, 2011 | One Comment

What unifies the American Association of University Presidents and the Union of Concerned Scientists?  Opposing Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s lawsuit against a UVA professor whose climate change research Cuccinelli disagrees with.  As Julian Walker of the Virginian-Pilot reports, a coalition is asking the University of Virginia to shield documents from the AG’s subpoena.

As always, Thomas Jefferson was right when he said political elites like the Attorney General should never be allowed to try and shut down opinions they disagree with using government power.  Ideas should be put into the free marketplace of ideas and forced to battle for success there. Or, more chillingly, see what Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote:

Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition…But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas…that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution.

That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution.  The point is that even if Cuccinelli, as an elected official, earnestly disagrees with Professor Michael Mann’s research on climate change, he ought to have that debate in the public realm (though why the Attorney General sees climate change as relevant to his job is another story).  To use Virginia’s government — the Office of the Attorney General, which we all just sent our tax dollars to yesterday — to shut down someone’s ideas is profoundly un-Virginian and profoundly un-American. 

The AG won’t trust people to decide on their own about Professor Mann’s ideas.  His Ahab-like quest has already cost UVA — a public university — thousands of dollars in legal fees, in a time when they can scarcely afford it.  It’s already embarrassed Virginia in the national and international stage.  It’s already led to a rebuke from a Virginia Circuit Court.

Thanks to this new coalition — and everyone else — who continues to stand strong for the marketplace of ideas.

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One Response to Fighting for the Marketplace of Ideas

  1. Russell says:

    American Association of University Presidents and the
    Union of Concerned Scientists and
    is so in to the free sharing of ideas, then support the rule of law.
    Tell UVa to cough up the docs!
    By Va’s duly constitutional law (VaFOIA), when documents are requested from an organization funded (in whole or in part) by public funds then the documents must be shown according to the VFOIA’s strict terms whether or not the VaFOIA law is specifically invoked or not!

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