Saturday, 29 December 2007


Roger Clemens isn’t the only one playing hardball.

Jonathan Wolff on Freedom of Thought

One of Mill’s most cherished beliefs was that there should be complete freedom of thought and discussion. He devotes almost a third of On Liberty to these vital freedoms, while accepting that there should sometimes be limits to what one is permitted to say in public.

The first thing to note, for Mill, is that the fact a view is unpopular is no reason at all to silence it: ‘If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind’ (On Liberty, 142). In fact, Mill argues, we have very good reason to welcome the advocacy even of unpopular views. To suppress them would be to ‘rob the human race, posterity as well as the existing generation’. How so? Well, Mill argues that, whether the controversial view is true, false, or a mix of the two, we will never gain by refusing it a voice. If we suppress a true view (or one that is partially true) then we lose the chance to exchange error, whole or partial, for truth. But if we suppress a false view we lose in a different way: to challenge, reconsider, and perhaps reaffirm, our true views. So there is nothing to gain by suppression, whatever the truth of the view in question.

(Jonathan Wolff, An Introduction to Political Philosophy, rev. ed. [New York: Oxford University Press, 2006], 107)

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “More Juice, Less Punch,” by Jonathan R. Cole and Stephen M. Stigler (Op-Ed, Dec. 22):

Someone supposedly once asked Ty Cobb, in his retirement, how he thought he would fare against modern pitchers. Mr. Cobb opined that he would hit about .300. Only .300?, he was asked.

Mr. Cobb answered, “Well, I’m 60 now.”

Similarly, the authors cite statistics to show that Roger Clemens’s E.R.A. was a little bit worse in the eight years, beginning when he was 36, after he is accused of taking steroids.

They say this shows that the steroids didn’t really help; however, the E.R.A.’s of virtually every pitcher in Major League history have deteriorated as they passed age 36, and almost all have quit the game by age 40.

Isn’t it therefore more likely that Clemens’s likely steroid use actually prevented a far greater decline in his E.R.A.?

Donald A. Tracy
Bethesda, Md., Dec. 24, 2007

Note from KBJ: I made the same point a week ago, although not as well.


You owe it to yourself to try this.

From the Mailbag

“By mid-century, Yemen will have more people than Russia, and 60% of Italians will have no brothers, no sisters, no cousins, no aunts, no uncles. Japan offers the chance to observe the demographic death spiral in its purest form.”

Those are excerpts from “The Future Belongs to Islam,” an article published in Maclean’s Magazine that is the object of a Human Rights Commission complaint discussed here.

An English-language version of Steyn’s remarks is here.

Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)