Notable & Quotable: Aug. 30, 2017

Posted

From remarks by Robert M. Morgenthau, formerly Manhattan's district attorney, at the General Grant National Memorial, June 6, 2016:

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Mark Twain remarked upon this great mystery: how it could be that physical courage should be so common in the world and yet moral courage so rare.

It is fit and proper that all communities remember those whose physical courage led them to sacrifice on the field of battle. But today I would like us all to pause to honor as well that rarer virtue: moral courage.

The soldiers and sailors commemorated in this park died because a founding document told them, "all men are created equal" - and yet they knew that every day, somewhere in this nation, that principle was being violated by the master's lash. That violation they could not abide; and when their nation called them, they took up arms. That is what we mean by moral courage.

And so they won the war, and so the Union was preserved; and so the Constitution received its crown, the Civil War amendments, outlawing slavery, along with every badge and incident of slavery - and indeed prohibiting any provision that might deny any American the equal protection of the law.

It was, by any measure, a great victory. And yet today, I sometimes fear that, just as the great monument to the Union soldiers has fallen into disrepair, so have the principles for which that monument stands.

I worry that today we still see some flying the confederate flag, claiming that they do so only to honor the dead - but, in too many instances, slandering the living as well. ...

It is not just monuments that must be restored. The ideals that they represent must be restored as well. ...

As we restore our monuments, let them inspire others as well, to find within themselves the courage - the moral courage - to preserve the ideals upon which the true greatness of this nation shall always rest.

From "Trump Damaged Democracy, Silicon Valley Will Finish It Off" by Joel Kotkin, www.DailyBeast.com, Aug. 27:

For all its talk about "disruption," Silicon Valley is increasingly about three things: money, hierarchy and conformity. Tech entrepreneurs long have enjoyed financial success, but their dominance in the ranks of the ultra-rich has never been so profound. They now account for three of the world's five richest people - Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg - and dominate the list of billionaires under 40.

Unlike their often ruthless and unpleasant 20th-century moguls, the Silicon Valley elite has done relatively little for the country's lagging productivity or to create broad-based opportunity. The information sector has overall been a poor source of new jobs - roughly 70,000 since 2010 - with the gains concentrated in just a few places. This as the number of generally more middle-class jobs tied to producing equipment has fallen by half since 1990 and most new employment opportunities have been in low-wage sectors like hospitality, medical care and food preparation.

The rich, that is, have gotten richer, in part by taking pains to minimize their tax exposure. Now they are talking grandly about having the government provide all the now "excess" humans with a guaranteed minimum income. The titans who have shared or spread so little of their own wealth are increasingly united in the idea that the government - i.e., middle-class taxpayers - should spread more around.

In The Wall Street Journal, Tunku Varadarajan writes "The First Amendment Is for Neo-Nazis, Too."

Richard Epstein, a professor at the University of Chicago and New York University, is among the Anglo-American world's foremost legal academics.

"There are certain harms that are nonactionable," Mr. Epstein says, "and offense is one of them. If I say something that you find duly offensive, you may protest, you may speak - but what you may not do is to sue me in order to silence me, or to get compensation from me." Counterspeech is "the appropriate 'remedy' under these circumstances; suppressing speech is not."

Mr. Epstein imagines a society in which "offensive" speech is curbed: "Everybody offends everybody a large fraction of the time. So, if I am insulting to you because you're a progressive and you're insulting to me because I'm a conservative, and if we allow both people to sue, then neither can talk." Those who advocate controlling speech, he says, tend to want only their sense of what's offensive to count and nobody else's. Yet the "fundamental tenet of classical free-speech law is that the rules ought to be 'viewpoint neutral.' Nobody can use force against anybody, regardless of his viewpoint; but anybody can express his opinion, irrespective of how offensive everybody else will want to regard it."

Notable & Quotable is compiled by Graham Osteen. Contact him at graham@theitem.com.