From Communist Romania to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals: Judge Alex Kozinski Talks about Free Speech, Cell Phones, and How Bubble Gum Made Him a Capitalist

By Welch, Matt | Reason, August-September 2013 | Go to article overview

From Communist Romania to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals: Judge Alex Kozinski Talks about Free Speech, Cell Phones, and How Bubble Gum Made Him a Capitalist


Welch, Matt, Reason


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"THOSE OF YOU who've had the good fortune to be born in the United States simply have not known the absence of freedoms," says Judge Alex Kozinski, Chief Justice of the U.S Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. "You can only imagine, but not experience, what it's like to live in a society where these freedoms are absent"

Born in 1950 to Holocaust survivors, Kozinski grew up as a committed communist in Bucharest, Romania. On his first trip outside of the Iron Curtain, in Vienna, Austria, he experienced forbidden luxuries like bubble gum and bananas. It was his first taste of freedom, and it caused him to become, in his words, "an instant capitalist."

Today, Kozinski is responsible for some of the most influential, controversial and often hilarious legal decisions in the United States. The self-described libertarian challenged the early Obama administration over the issue of same-sex marriage, weighed in on whether a Barbie doll qualifies as a sex object, and, in one of the most influential dissents in recent memory, caused federal prosecutors to drop all charges against a defendant who'd been convicted of smuggling illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.

In February, the blunt-spoken Kozinski sat down with Editor in Chief Matt Welch during Reason Weekend in Las Vegas for a wide-ranging discussion about freedom and the law, how new technologies affect our right to privacy, and why libertarians should be wary of embracing jury nullification.

For video of this interview, go to reason.com or use your smartphone to scan the QR code at left.

reason: You were born in Romania in 1950. To the extent that you remember your life before you were 12, can you share an aspect of what you thought was a normal childhood that in retrospect looks a little different?

Alex Kozinsk: I grew up in communism and I considered myself a communist. My parents were careful not to teach me any wrong ideas, because it was well known that parents could get into trouble if children said the wrong thing. In fact, one time I did say something that sounded somewhat critical of the government, and my father almost lost his job over it. And they were finally persuaded that I was just a kid talking. But my father got a talking-to.

reason: Do you remember what you said?

Kozinski: There was a newspaper called Free Romania, and I was 7 years old. It was just people in my father's office and they said "Do you know how to read?" And I said, "Oh, yes." And they said, "Can you read here?" And I said, "Well, why is it called Free Romania? All those people are in prison."

That didn't go over well, and after that my father said, "Well, if you ever are in public and I'm there and I give you this signal [sniffs], you stop. You don't say another word. You don't explain. You just stop talking. And I said, "Well, what if they ask me questions?" He said, "Don't worry, they're not going to ask you questions." And they never did. My father gave me the signal, I stopped talking, and I never got in trouble again.

But to me that was normal. The idea that you didn't say certain things that you had in your head, that's just the way life was. That food and consumer goods were there whenever the government could provide them. And if you happened to find something, you bought it because you never knew when something would be a necessity. To me, that was a normal way of life.

We were indoctrinated in school that everything that we have that's good, we have to be grateful to the Communist Party. And I believed it in my heart that it was true. When we were leaving, you know, we're going to be behind the Iron Curtain where people are oppressed by the voracious, greedy capitalists, and I knew that I would take this knowledge with me--this enlightenment with me--and I would teach the oppressed of the capitalist world of how bad off they were. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

From Communist Romania to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals: Judge Alex Kozinski Talks about Free Speech, Cell Phones, and How Bubble Gum Made Him a Capitalist
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.