necrovore Posted January 30 Report Share Posted January 30 Over the past decade or so it has become much more acceptable to "punish" people because of their opinions -- because they expressed them, or just because they have them. It has been pointed out that there is a big difference between the government carrying out this "punishment," such as by throwing people in prison, and private individuals (or groups) carrying it out, such as by denying service at a bar or a bank. In the latter case, property owners are merely exercising their right to their own property, and their right to choose who they associate with, and if somebody were to force them to serve people they don't want to, even if this force is only forcing them to do what is in their actual best interest anyway, then, as Leonard Peikoff puts it, the act of forcing it on them makes it wrong. However, in some cases the motivation behind using your own personal property to do something, and using the government to do it, can be the same, and in the case of "punishing" opinions, the motivation is wrong in both cases, even though initiating force is the only thing that should properly be illegal. It is proper to address the motivation and expose its incorrectness even if it is not (yet) infringing anyone's rights. By doing so, it may be possible to talk people out of acting on it. One can say that, for example, nihilism ought to be legal if you don't infringe anyone's rights, but one can also say that it is still wrong. My point is: the motivation for punishing people's opinions contradicts the motivation for having free speech, which means, a person can't consistently support both. When you see more and more people "punishing" opinions, and supporting the punishment of opinions, you can know that the days are numbered for free speech, even if the government itself has not yet begun to act against it. The motivation for free speech is confidence in reason (and reality). We can afford to allow people to state falsehoods because we have confidence that reason will expose the falsehoods as such. Free speech also ensures that it's possible for people to speak the truth even when it's controversial, so that the truth can also be exposed. This confidence is what allows a store owner to let people he disagrees with walk into his store and buy stuff. He knows that their opinion, even if wrong, is not a threat to him; he knows that reality and reason will prevail in time; he can count on the police to be on his side if they initiate force, so he can just smile and sell them their goods. When people have abandoned reason, when they believe they are the exclusive owners of truths that cannot be reached by means of reason (or "reason alone"), when they decide that "unbridled" reason is a threat to their point of view, when they find that reason (and ultimately reality itself) can be "misleading," they do not feel that confidence, and they seek to suppress contrary opinions. If they cannot do it through the government, then they can do it through their own private property, but if they don't see the problem doing it with their own property, they will not see the problem with using the government to do it. So, in that sense, saying "it isn't really censorship if they're using their own private property" is true, but it's not addressing the root of the problem. The real problem is that people have abandoned reason -- and without reason, the distinction between merely using their own property and using government force to go beyond it will be abandoned, too. It's only a matter of time. (Actually it has already been abandoned. The separation between usage of private property [i.e., economics] and government powers [i.e., state] has never been formally recognized and has been on the way out for decades; however, it cannot be upheld unless reason itself is upheld.) The notion that "free speech is dangerous," that "free speech corrupts people" and so forth, is coming from both political parties. Because of its widespread popularity, even if you do not see it affecting government policy now, it is going to affect government policy sooner or later, unless it can be exposed as the mistake that it is. Exposing the mistake -- and defending free speech as such -- requires a defense of reason. Grames 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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