Thursday, December 22, 2011

What is free speech?

Free speech is an expression that is much used by people who have absolutely no idea what it means. I have no time for people who say "I believe in free speech but ..." because that usually means they do not believe in it. On the other hand, I do not limit anyone's free speech by either not listening to them, not replying to them or banning them from my blog (not that I have had to resort to that yet but it may happen). My blog is my property and I do not have to put up with people's comments on it if I do not feel like it.

On the subject of private property and free speech, here is an article by George Reisman on the Ludwig von Mises Institute site: Free Speech and Occupy Wall Street.
Nevertheless, by the logic of the prevailing view of freedom of speech, protesters in the future will be able to storm into lecture halls and/or seize radio and television stations in order to deliver their message and then claim that their freedom of speech is violated when the police come to eject them, even though the police in such cases would in fact be acting precisely in order to uphold the freedom of speech. Indeed, since the days of the so-called Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, back in the 1960s, disruptions of speeches delivered by invited guests have occurred repeatedly on college campuses, in the name of the alleged freedom of speech of the disrupters. No attention has been paid to the actual violation of the freedom of speech of the invited speakers.
The prevailing view of freedom of speech is a major threat to freedom of speech. Not only does it provide justification for actual violations of freedom of speech of the kinds just mentioned, but it also makes freedom of speech appear to be a fundamental enemy of rational communication. Speakers cannot address audiences, professors cannot lecture to students if disrupters are permitted to drown them out and then hide behind the claim that they do so in the name of freedom of speech. If the prevailing view of freedom of speech were correct, the ability of speakers to speak and professors to lecture would require accepting the principle of the need to violate freedom of speech.
Read the whole piece. I don't often recommend this site but, for once, its publication is spot on while approaching the subject from an unusual angle.


  1. “Protester-occupiers are enemies of freedom, including, above all, freedom of speech.”

    Er no, the enemies of freedom are the criminal parasites who ran the global economy into the ground and enriched themselves in the process - not the people peacefully protesting against them. Honestly the largest financial crime wave in history and all the idiot libertarians care about is that the protestors are on private property! Maybe if there had been more respect for other people's property during the years when bankers were stealing billions of dollars from mutual funds there wouldn't have been any occasion for the protests in the first place.

  2. Yes it's all the fault of teh ebil (jewish) international financiers and their running-dog allies!!! Nothing to do with spendthrift politicians and the intellectually bankrupt snake-oil selling economists who advise them.

  3. Just curious ... as a libertarian, what are your qualms with the Mises Institute?

    As to the issue at hand, it seems that many of these seeming difficulties can be easily resolved — my own bias, perhaps? — by a careful ranking of such ‘rights’ by their priority, much as Professor Reisman has done. Time to brush up on our Plato and Aristotle!

  4. My issue is really with some of the people there. Firstly, I suppose, I am a classical liberal rather than a libertarian; and secondly they often fall into the error of assuming that because there are problems in America (they don't really know about other countries) it has to be the worst country in the world.

  5. The politicians and the 'snake oil' economists are largely funded by finance capital you fool. Only brainwashed conservatives have trouble understanding the marriage of big money and big government.

  6. (previous guest was me, sorry about the lack of name)

    There is no indication that the banks are in any way distinguishable from other corporate vested interests or from other groups who attempt to sway the political discourse. If the politicians wish to take money from that source (or any other), it does not absolve from responsibility for subsequent decisions they make.

    Oh, and libertarian or conservative? Make up your mind.