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Yesterday Yale Law professor emeritus Peter Schuck visited Cato to discuss his new book, and Arnold Kling commented, with me moderating. More about the book and its arguments is here, and a further note from Kling.

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why-government-fails-so-oftenI’m particularly pleased to have played a role in bringing so many terrific authors to speak at Cato this year, including Virginia Postrel and Lenore Skenazy (I helped a bit with Megan McArdle too). Next up, on Mar. 27: Peter Schuck of Yale Law School, “militant moderate” whose magnum opus on how government fails is forthcoming from Princeton. Commenting will be Arnold Kling. Register now! (or make plans to watch live online). Event description:

Featuring the author Peter Schuck, Professor of Law Emeritus, Yale Law School; with comments by Arnold Kling, Economist and Adjunct Scholar, Cato Institute; moderated by Walter Olson, Senior Fellow, Center for Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute.

From the doctor’s office to the workplace, the federal government is taking on ever more responsibility for managing our lives. At the same time, Americans have never been more disaffected with Washington, seeing it as an intrusive, incompetent, wasteful giant. In this book, lawyer and political scientist Peter Schuck lays out a wide range of examples and an enormous body of evidence to explain why so many domestic policies go awry. Economist David Henderson, research fellow at the Hoover Institution and coeditor of EconLog, lauds the book as full of “gems” and “juicy” insights: “Schuck does a beautiful job of laying out all the problems with government intervention.” But can the state get better results by pursuing more thoughtfully conceived policies designed to compensate for its structural flaws? Schuck believes it can. Many libertarians will disagree — and that debate will enliven our discussion.

A sampling of the book’s argument is here.

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Lenore Skenazy’s incredibly funny talk last Thursday, with me commenting and moderating (and even at one point giving my impression of a 3-year-old losing a cookie), is now online. Several people have told me this was one of the most entertaining and illuminating Cato talks they’ve seen.

Lenore’s blog is Free-Range Kids and you can buy her book of the same name here. Some links on topics that came up in my remarks: Harvard researchers call for yanking obese kids out of their homes; authorities in Queensland, Australia, plan use of satellite data to spy out noncompliance with pool safety rules; courts reward helicopter parents in custody battles; charges dropped against mom who left toddler sleeping in car while she dropped coins in Salvation Army bucket; proposals to cut kids’ food into small bits and discontinue things like peanuts and marshmallows entirely; authorities snatch kids from homes after parents busted with small quantities of pot.

P.S. Direct video link here (h/t comments).

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Should parents helping their child’s teacher put on a short class party have to submit to a background check first? Is it child endangerment to leave your toddler in the car for a few minutes on a mild day while you run into a shop? If your child gets hurt falling off a swing, is it potential child neglect not to sue every solvent defendant in sight? Should police have arrested a dad who walked into school at pickup time rather than wait outside for his kids as he was supposed to?

Author Lenore Skenazy has led the charge against the forces of legal and societal overprotectiveness in her book Free-Range Kids and at her popular blog of the same name.  This Thursday, March 6 – rescheduled from a weather-canceled event originally set for last month – she’ll be the Cato Institute’s guest for a lunchtime talk on helicopter parenting and its near relation, helicopter governance; I’ll be moderating and commenting. The event is free and open to the public, but you need to register, which you can do here. You can also watch online live at this link. (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty)

I spoke on Thursday to the Bastiat Society chapter in Charlotte with some observations rooted in public choice theory about the “three-tier” system of state liquor regulation familiar since Prohibition. A few further links for those interested in the subject:

Now online: Wednesday’s Cato Institute event at which Virginia Postrel discussed her new book The Power of Glamour: Persuasion, Longing, and Individual Aspiration with sparkling comments from economist Tyler Cowen and New York Times writer-at-large Sam Tanenhaus. Subtracting considerably from the glamo(u)r factor, I moderated and introduced. More here.

If you missed that fantastic lunch, you’ll really kick yourself if you miss our author lunch next Wednesday with the phenomenal Lenore Skenazy, founder of the Free-Range Kids movement. Click through and register now, while you’re thinking about it.

See you there? Quoting Hawaii lawyer Robert Thomas at the Inverse Condemnation blog:

Next Thursday, February 6, 2014, we’ll be in Chicago to moderate an American Bar Association discussion/debate on a topic that’s not our usual takings-eminent domain-land use stuff, but is still one of the hotter topics around. “They’ll Take My Big Gulp From My Cold Dead Hands” is an hour-and-a-half with three experts in “Public Health, the Police Power, and the Nanny State,” to quote our subtitle. (Yes, we realize that New York City’s ban actually exempted Big Gulps® but hey, it’s a catchy title.)

Joining me for the discussion:

*Walter Olson, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies. While his list of accomplishments is long, we lawyers love him best for his “Overlawyered” blog.

*Sarah Conly, Professor of Philosophy at Bowdoin College. Author of “Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism,” forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

*Alderman George Cardenas, who represents the City of Chicago’s 12th Ward. Among other issue, Alderman Cardenas has proposed raising the smoking age to 21, and to tax sugary drinks.
Here’s the description of the program:

A moderated panel discussion of the issues raised by New York City’s attempt to regulate the portion size of sugary drinks, and similar measures around the country. Advocates from both sides of the issue will present their rationales, and legal scholars and media commentators will provide the larger picture. The panelists will be comparing various state and federal approaches with the common question: what limits on personal choice can be adopted in the name of public health, the environment, and the traditional police powers exercised by governments? How do these measures work with a federal system where local regulation may conflict with state and federal laws, or at the very least may conflict — at least philosophically — with subsidies to sugar and corn producers, and protective tariffs?

It’s sponsored by the ABA’s State and Local Government Law section, and CLE credit will be provided.

Will you be in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, February 5? I’m delighted to announce that Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids fame, whose work I regularly link in this space, will be speaking at the Cato Institute at lunchtime. I’ll be offering comments as well as moderating, and it’s free and open to the public. Register here. The event description:

Our children are in constant danger from — to quote Lenore Skenazy’s list — “kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.” Or so a small army of experts and government policymakers keep insisting. School authorities punish kids for hugging a friend, pointing a finger as a pretend gun, or starting a game of tag on the playground. Congress bans starter bikes on the chance that some 12-year-old might chew on a brass valve. Police arrest parents for leaving a sleepy kid alone in the back seat of a car for a few minutes. Yet overprotectiveness creates perils of its own. It robs kids not only of fun and sociability but of the joy of learning independence and adult skills, whether it be walking a city street by themselves or using a knife to cut their own sandwich. No one has written more provocatively about these issues than Lenore Skenazy, a journalist with the former New York Sun who now contributes frequently to the Wall Street Journal and runs the popular Free-Range Kids website where she promotes ideas like “Take Your Kids to the Park and Leave Them There Day.” Her hilarious and entertaining talks have charmed audiences from Microsoft headquarters to the Sydney Opera House. Please join her and Cato’s Walter Olson for a discussion of helicopter parenting and its unfortunate policy cousin, helicopter governance.

And don’t forget that next Wednesday I’ll be moderating a luncheon talk at Cato by another favorite author, Virginia Postrel, with powerhouse commenters Tyler Cowen and Sam Tanenhaus. Register here.

In Pittsburgh Feb. 4

by Walter Olson on January 16, 2014

I’ll be speaking at Duquesne Law.

Thanks Ron Miller

by Walter Olson on November 29, 2013

Known to some of our readers through his Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog, and to many others as one of our most valued commenters (bringing the perspective of a seasoned plaintiff’s attorney, a perspective I will confess is sometimes lacking here otherwise), Ron also teaches a course on insurance law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Last week he was kind enough to invite me to stop by and present my own perspective on the role of insurance in tort law. (Nutshell version: the insurance mechanism is exceedingly imperfect, and legal theorists and policy makers often go astray by assuming that it works more smoothly than it does.) Thanks, Ron!

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I’ll be at these events in coming weeks:

Fri., Nov. 8, Air Force lawyers CLE, Arlington, Va., discussing Supreme Court term (not a public event)
Mon., Nov. 11, U. of Chicago Federalist Society lunch
Tues., Nov. 12, NYU Federalist Society afternoon panel on NYC food initiatives
Thurs., Nov. 14, Federalist Society Lawyers’ National Convention, Washington, DC, afternoon panel on litigation finance
Thurs., Nov. 21, Univ. of Baltimore Law School, speak to Ron Miller’s insurance-law class (not a public event)

I’m honored to announce that I’ll be giving a talk in the Frank G. Raichle Lecture Series, part of the pre-law program at Canisius College in western New York. Details here in a press release from the college. Previous speakers in this lecture series include an extraordinary list of legal notables including Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justices O’Connor, Scalia, Ginsburg, and White, among many others such as Alex Kozinski, Harry Edwards, John Langbein, and Randall Kennedy.

Earlier on the same day (October 30) I’ll be addressing the Buffalo Lawyers’ Chapter of the Federalist Society.

That was the title of the talk I gave Friday at a panel on food and product labeling law as part of a stimulating symposium put on by the Vermont Law Review at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt. I drew on a number of different sources, but especially two relatively recent articles: Omri Ben-Shahar and Curt Schneider, “The Failure of Mandated Disclosure,” U. Penn. Law Review (2011), and Kesten C. Green and J. Scott Armstrong, “Evidence on the Effects of Mandatory Disclaimers in Advertising”, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, Fall 2012. I was able to bring in examples ranging from patent marking law to Prop 65 in California to pharmaceutical patient package inserts, as well as the durable phenomenon of labels, disclosures, and disclaimers going unread even by very sophisticated consumers.

My talk was well received, and I think I might adapt and expand it in future into a full-length speech for audiences on failures of consumer protection law.

In Ann Arbor on Wednesday

by Walter Olson on September 23, 2013

I’ll be speaking at lunchtime Wednesday, Sept. 25 to the University of Michigan Law School’s Federalist Society chapter, on my book Schools for Misrule. Details here.

  • More details on my panel discussions on food issues next week at the Heritage Foundation [Monday, Sept. 23] and at Vermont Law School [Friday, Sept. 27];
  • “A Ban on Some Italian Cured Meat Is Ending” [Glenn Collins, N.Y. Times] “Market Forces Lead to Better Treatment for Farm Animals” [Steve Chapman]
  • “Tempering temperance: Puritan attitudes on alcohol still linger decades after Prohibition” [National Post]
  • Dozens of class-action suits: “Bay Area courts center of legal battle against food industry” [Mercury-News]
  • “Plain and/or Terrifying Packaging Considered for Junk Food in New Zealand (and Australia)” [Katherine Mangu-Ward]
  • If the dangers of rice aren’t enough to alarm even today’s Margaret Hamburg-headed FDA, they’re probably not very serious [ACSH]
  • North Carolina: home visits to make sure Medicaid recipient kids are eating their veggies? [Rick Henderson video]

Speaking in Baltimore Thursday

by Walter Olson on September 16, 2013

I’m speaking in downtown Baltimore this Thursday at 12 noon about my most recent book, Schools for Misrule. I’ve given versions of this talk many times around the country but I think this marks the first time I’ve done so in my own state of Maryland. It’s free and lunch is served, but you’ll need to RSVP to the Federalist Society Baltimore Lawyers’ Chapter. Details here.

I’m back from a speaking swing through Nebraska. At the University of Nebraska College of Law in Lincoln, I spoke about food and drink paternalism as exemplified by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s initiatives in New York, with Prof. Steven Willborn providing a counterpoint from a more liberal perspective. At Creighton University Law School in Omaha, I spoke (as I often do) on the ideological state of the law schools, drawing on my 2011 book Schools for Misrule, with commentary from Profs. Ralph Whitten and Sara Stadler.

Both events were well attended but I was especially pleased at the strong turnout for the talk in Lincoln on food and the nanny state, a new speech I hadn’t tried out before on a general audience. Here’s a description:

The public is increasingly in revolt against “nanny state” interventions, from Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to limit soda sizes in New York, to efforts to ban Happy Meals in San Francisco. Some thinkers dismiss concern about paternalism as merely trivial and personal, not on a par with issues acknowledged as “serious” such as police abuse, free speech, surveillance, and the proper functioning of the legal system. Left unchecked, however, the project of paternalism quickly generates very serious problems in each of those other areas: it gives police and enforcers great arbitrary power, hands a special government megaphone to some speakers while stifling others, funnels uncomfortably personal information into government hands, and fuels abusive litigation. No matter what you think of potato chips, if your interests are in liberty and good government, you should be paying attention.

I’m next scheduled to speak on the food police Sept. 23 at a Heritage Foundation panel discussion with Baylen Linnekin, Nita Ghei, and J. Justin Wilson, hosted by Daren Bakst. Details here. More on my fall speaking schedule here.

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In Nebraska next week

by Walter Olson on September 4, 2013

I’ll be speaking at the University of Nebraska College of Law on Monday and Creighton University School of Law on Tuesday, both lunchtime addresses sponsored by the Federalist Society. More of my speaking schedule for this fall:

Sept. 17, Washington, D.C., panel moderator, Cato Institute annual Constitution Day.

Sept. 19, Baltimore, Md., Baltimore Lawyers Chapter, Federalist Society.

Sept. 25, Ann Arbor, Mich. University of Michigan Law School, Federalist Society.

Sept. 27, South Royalton, Vt. Vermont Law School conference, “The Disclosure Debates: The Regulatory Power of an Informed Public.”

Oct. 15, Frederick, Md.

Oct. 30, Buffalo, N.Y., Canisius College.

Nov. 7, Baltimore, Md., University of Baltimore School of Law, guest lecture.

Nov. 11, Chicago, Ill. University of Chicago Law School, Federalist Society.

If you’d like me to visit your campus or group, drop me a line. (& welcome Joe Patrice, Above the Law readers)

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