as part of the definition of obscenity,nbut recent experience as an expertnwitness in a Charlotte pornographyntrial — expert, I hasten to add, in socialnresearch methods, not pornography —nleads me to conclude that thenSupremes have screwed up again.n(They mean well—but, then, theynusually do.)nLet me tell you about that trial. ThenCharlotte police busted two out-ofstatersnwho owned and ran an “adult”nvideo-rental shop, and their lawyer, anbig gun from Detroit, commissioned anbunch of surveys to show that theirnmerchandise didn’t violate MecklenbergnCounty’s standards. I was hired tonvet the methods used.nThe surveys did show, essentially,nthat most Charlotteans believe theirnneighbors ought to be able to watchnany damn video they want, even onenrented from a Yankee-owned smutnshop. In other words, Charlotte seemsnto have no standards, at least in thisnmatter.nYou might think that would setde it,nbut think again. The prosecutor arguednthat the jury, as representatives of thencommunity, could ascertain the community’snstandards by introspection,nand when the judge ruled the surveynevidence inadmissible on technicalngrounds they had to. The jury wasnheavily weighed (literally) with middleagednblack women who looked likengood churchgoers to me; how thendefense lawyer ever let that happen Incan’t imagine, but it didn’t surprise menwhen they concluded that a couple ofnthe films in question were obscene.n(They found that several others, indistinguishablento the untutored eye, werennot, and I still can’t decide whethernthat was Solomonic or just nonsensical.)nLast I heard, the decision hadnbeen upheld on appeal and the defendantsnwere looking at something likenseven years in the pokey.nI actually feel sorry for them, but notnbecause I have any problem withnCharlotte’s trying to close their businessndown. In fact, if I lived in Charlotte,nI’d be for it, in a casual sort ofnway. I don’t think Debbie Does Dallasnis what Thomas Jefferson had in mindn— although with Jefferson you nevernknow, do you? I don’t have any problemnwith harsh sentences for “victimless”ncrimes either, although it’s truenthat lots of murderers these days don’tn44/CHRONICLESnpull as much time as these guys arengoing to.nBut there is something wrong whennit takes an elaborate and expensive trialnto figure out, not what you’ve done,nbut whether it breaks the law. Consultingn”contemporary community standards”nis a great idea, in principle, butneven if you get them right (by surveynresearch, say) they can change. And ifnjurymen are going to tell you what thenstandards are by examining their consciences,nstandards are going to changenfrom jury to jury. It seems to me thatnlaws ought to be written so you cannknow when you’re breaking them.nMost other countries have obscenitynlaws like that, but lately our courtsnwon’t let us have them. It has becomenso hard to figure out what you cannforbid and what you can’t that thentemptation is just to give up and allownanything.nHere’s where decentralization couldncome to the rescue, if we’d let it. If thenfederal courts want to tie themselves innknots about what can be sent throughnthe U.S. mails, that’s OK. But if Charlotte’snelected government wants tonforbid over-the-counter traffic in videonnasties, what’s that to the rest of us? Ifndirty old Charlotteans can drive tonChapel Hill and buy anything short ofnchild pornography, or mail-order itnfrom an 800 number, or get it from theninevitable black market, what is it evennto them? It seems to me that thencitizens of Charlotte should b? able tonuse their representative institutions tonestablish “contemporary communitynstandards” of decency in their common,npublic life — especially if theyncan do pretty much what they pleasenbehind closed doors. Anyone who really”nwants to live where he can buynAnimal Lovers at every conveniencenstore can move. What’s wrong withnthat?n* * *nTrue, we have a meddlesome federalngovernment that recognizes no limitsnon its authority and is prepared to makenall our states and communities looknalike in various ways. The TenthnAmendment was almost a dead letterneven before the states’ pigging out atnthe federal fisc gave the federales thenlever they needed to dictate everythingnfrom drinking ages and school-bus colorsnto speed limits and cable televisionnrates.nnnBut it’s interesting that they haven’tnseen fit to impose uniformity in everynrespect — even in some fairly importantnrespects. Maybe we could usenthose chinks to make a case for allowingndiversity in other areas. But wenneed to be more consistent about it.nIt seems to be settled, for example,nthat it’s no business of mine, as a NorthnCarolinian, if Louisiana lets grocerynstores sell liquor, or Massachusetts runsna lottery, or Nevada permits brothels. Itnalso appears that Californians can legalizensodomy and (for the time being)nthat Georgians can forbid it, withoutninterference from the rest of us. That’snall fine with me. How about you?nWell, if you’re still with me, hownabout if Utah rethinks polygamy again,nor Oregon wants to legalize marijuana?nWhat’s your beef?nI can argue this case with somensincerity because^to get right downnto it here — I do just barely care whatnother states do. As far as I’m concerned,nCalifornians can outlaw NorthnCarolina’s cigarettes, we’ll outlaw theirnpornography, and everyone will benhealthier. Californians who want theirnsmokes and Carolinians who want theirnsmut can move, smuggle, or do without.nThat’s what the Founding Fathersnhad in mind, or should have.nOf course you have to draw the linensomewhere — at slavery, for example.nWe settled that. Some individual rightsndo trump corporate liberties. Even anNorth Carolinian wouldn’t get to benindifferent to, let’s say, a neo-Aztecnrevival of human sacrifice in NewnMexico. And those who see abortion asnhuman sacrifice without even a propitiatorynmotive, like those who see itsnabsence as a form of slavery, won’t findnthe Hatch Amendment a satisfactorynresolution of that troublesome question.nNo, decentralization wouldn’t meanntranquillity in every respect. In fact, it’sna recipe for more conflict of a wholesomensort: conflict about where tondraw the line. I seem to recall thatnWilliam Buckley wrote once thatnmuch of libertarianism is foolishness,nbut that our politics would be healthiernif we were actually debating whether tonsell the lighthouses. Just so, I thinknwe’d be better off if the debate aboutnstates’ and communities’ rights werentaking place well to windward of wherenwe are now.n