The illiberal Ezra Klein

This conceit has been accepted widely throughout civil society — indeed, it arguably put the “civil” part into that welcome phrase. And yet, from time to time, we are reminded that not everybody has quite grasped its consequence. Among those who are struggling with the idea, it seems, is Vox’s Ezra Klein, who yesterday afternoon argued in no uncertain terms that we should disregard the due-process rights of accused rapists in the name of bringing about social change. California’s controversial new sexual-consent law, Klein wrote, was little short of “terrible,” and yet, because he agrees with its intentions, he has decided to “completely support it” anyhow. “If the Yes Means Yes law is taken even remotely seriously,” Klein explained, “it will settle like a cold winter on college campuses, throwing everyday sexual practice into doubt and creating a haze of fear and confusion over what counts as consent.” “This,” he concluded, “is the case against it and also the case for it.”

Or, rather, what is terrible about this law is what is wonderful about it. The law’s “overreach,” Klein says, is “precisely its value,” authorities having hit upon “a necessarily extreme solution to an extreme problem.” That “cold winter” of which he writes? That’s a feature not a bug, the measure’s virtue being, in Klein’s words, that it will “create a world where men are afraid” enough of the authorities that they “feel a cold spike of fear when they begin a sexual encounter.” All in all, Klein adduces, “The Yes Means Yes law could also be called the You Better Be Pretty Damn Sure law.”

That’s one option, certainly. Another modest proposal might be, “An Enabling Act for the Salem Rape Culture Trials.”