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Summer 2002
The Contrarian
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Odd and amusing curiosities, as it happens, regularly dance through Volokh's brain, fighting for space with serious ideas like the one he had recently about how to reconcile libertarian antagonism against motorcycle-helmet laws with the reality of a society that funds emergency rooms with taxpayers' money. Volokh's solution: two different kinds of motorcycle license plates, one that requires proof of (expensive) insurance for helmet-less riding, and one that doesn't. But he also regularly comes up with fancies like the "Hum a Few Bar Exam," with questions taken from popular songs. "Evidence: Can my admitting that I shot the sheriff be used as prior bad-act evidence in my trial for shooting the deputy? If I want to introduce my prior denial of shooting the deputy, will I be barred from the hearsay rule?"

"I had an epiphany the other day," he says, chatting to guests at his target-shooting excursion. "You'd think that people with the classical names of poets would be the children of Northeastern college professors. But Virgil, Homer, Horace ... they're all hick names! I'm going to call this Volokh's Law of American Culture."

Volokh now posts these random thoughts — along with trenchant media commentary and ideas for future op-ed pieces — on the blog (www.volokh.blogspot.com) he finally started in April, after one-too-many urges of "Get a blog!" from his friend Reynolds. Reynolds' mighty Instapundit site is the post-September 11 blogging craze's most astonishing success, now getting almost 50,000 visitors a day. Which makes a 1995 article that Volokh wrote called "Cheap Speech and What It Will Do" seem particularly prescient.

"It was well-known that free speech was not free in the sense of not costing any money," says Volokh. "As A.J. Liebling said, 'Freedom of the press belongs to him who owns it.' So my claim was that the advent of new Internet technology would democratize and diversify the free-speech marketplace," which indeed it has. Volokh doesn't read a daily newspaper but relies on Instapundit to direct him to articles of interest.

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