August 29 roundup

California gender board quotas, cont’d

Securities and Exchange Commissioner Hester Peirce has some critical comments on the California legislation signed by outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown last year requiring corporations to adopt gender quotas in the composition of their board of directors. She notes that research may not support one of the law’s stated rationales, that of improving financial results through better corporate governance, and that the law proposes to “micromanage an aspect of corporate governance that corporations, boards, and shareholders seem perfectly capable of handling on their own.” Relatedly, if women directors have an effect on corporate governance that is any different from men’s, it may relate to factors other than their gender [Tyler Cowen on Alam, Chen, Ciccotello, and Ryan paper] More: Federalist Society teleforum with Anastasia Boden, Keith Paul Bishop on unanswered questions about the law’s application. Earlier, including the law’s doubtful constitutionality, here, here, and here.

Ken White on faulty speech tropes

“If you’ve read op-eds about free speech in America, or listened to talking heads on the news, you’ve almost certainly encountered empty, misleading, or simply false tropes about the First Amendment,” argues Los Angeles litigator Ken White in an Atlantic essay. “Those tired tropes are barriers to serious discussions about free speech.” Among verbal gestures that help very little or not at all when you’re trying to establish whether particular speech is protected under current First Amendment law:

* “Not all speech is protected; there are exceptions to the First Amendment.” [true but usually not helpful]

* “This speech isn’t protected, because you can’t shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.” [see above; also, an empty rhetorical device deployed in a case that’s no longer good law]

* “Incitement and threats are not free speech.” [true, but regularly misapplied to speech that does not meet the law’s narrow definitions of these terms]

* “Fighting words are not free speech.” [same, even assuming that Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942) is still good law]

* “Hate speech is not free speech.” [no, it mostly is]

* “Stochastic terrorism is not free speech.” [same]

* “We must balance free speech with [social good].” / “There is a line between free speech and [social evil].”

* “They do it in Europe!”

* “We talked to a professor and a litigator who said this is not protected speech.”

* “This speech may be protected right now, but the law is always changing.”

Watch and (if you’re like me) cheer as Ken dispatches them all.

[cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]

Medical roundup

She secretly taped her co-workers. Can’t she keep that under the rug?

Discrimination plaintiff finds “that offers of employment have been rescinded after Google searches of her name revealed the events of this case, namely her surreptitious recordings of her co-workers.” So she asks the court to seal the case record. Nope: “strong presumption in favor of public access” not overcome [Eugene Volokh on Gilliard v. McWilliams, federal court in D.C.]

Disabled rights roundup

“Ohio State seeks to trademark the word ‘The'”

“Ohio State is seeking a trademark on one of the most common words in the English language. The school, formally known as The Ohio State University, is seeking a trademark on the word ‘The’ for use on clothing and hats.” [ESPN] The rival University of Michigan responded:

Meanwhile, a small firm in Wales called Boss Brewing has changed the name of some of its products following trademark opposition and cease and desist correspondence from the German clothing maker Hugo Boss. [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]

180 CEOs proclaim loyalty to “stakeholders.” A revolution?

My new Cato piece begins:

Yesterday the Business Roundtable released a “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” signed by 180 CEOs of major companies. It proclaims “a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders,” including customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and, finally, shareholders. It is being widely interpreted as a victory for anti-business campaigners and “corporate social responsibility” advocates, and perhaps also as a repudiation of the shareholder-primacy norm memorably defended (though in no way originated) by free-market economist Milton Friedman.

Read on to see why I’m skeptical that the statement can be pinned down as meaning much of anything at all — and why, if it does signify anything beyond happy talk, it will probably turn out to be a bad idea.

August 20 roundup

  • UK: “British newspapers can legitimately mock parrots and compare them to psychopaths, the press regulator has ruled, after an unsuccessful complaint that the Daily Star misrepresented the emotions of a pet bird.” [Jim Waterson, Guardian]
  • Cato scholars regularly crisscross the country talking to students. Book one (maybe me) at your campus this Fall [Cato Policy Report]
  • Local-government preemption, single-use plastics, lemonade stands, Sen. Cardin on redistricting: my new post at Free State Notes recounts my experience attending the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference;
  • Can a police officer be criminally prosecuted for refusing to risk his life to stop a school shooter? [Eugene Volokh on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School case]
  • I’m quoted on press freakout over new proposed religious liberty regs: “This is a narrowly drawn rule for a minority of federal contractors. It’s really not that radical and not that new.” [Brad Palumbo, Washington Examiner]
  • Beware proposals that would transform antitrust law into general bludgeon for avenging all sorts of grievance against big business [Glenn Lammi, WLF]