In a sweeping new interview with Reason TV out today, FIRE co-founder Harvey Silverglate discusses the increasing overregulation of everyday life and the related impact on higher education.
In the video, “When Everything Is a Crime: Harvey Silverglate on the Overregulation of Ordinary Life,” the civil liberties attorney and author tells Reason’s Nick Gillespie about what he says are two of the biggest threats to liberty in America today.
“There are two allied concepts,” Silverglate says. First, “too many things have been made into crimes. But then there is a kind of a vicious relative, and that is statutes that are so vague that no normal human being can figure out what it is you can’t do.”
Silverglate says those phenomena materialized on college campuses in the mid-’80s with the advent of speech codes—as well as the kangaroo courts implemented to enforce them. That’s where Silverglate says he and University of Pennsylvania professor Alan Charles Kors got the idea to found FIRE in 1999.
“I thought it was needed to deal with a temporary public panic,” he said, adding he estimated FIRE would last about 10 years.
“You’re talking here about liberal arts campuses, where free speech and free ideas are supposed to be paramount,” he said. “I figured there was such dissonance presented by these institutions growing up on the campuses that if we did a little pushback, just a little pushback, this edifice would collapse of its own idiocy and inappropriateness.”
“Little did I realize that things were going to be getting worse during those 10 years.”