Monday, November 19, 2012

Censorship

Censorship is one of the most frightening words for a man who loves liberty and individualism. Censorship is, put plainly, the concept of limiting the opinions or thoughts expressed by others. It has been done in various ways over the years, from the blatantly abusive censorship of the early United States "treason and sedition" act, to the even more appealing censorship of the Third Reich, to the far more subtle censorship of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunals, kangaroo courts which I have written about before. But what is so inherently wrong with censorship?
We have laws against the uttering of threats, against libel, and defamation of character. So why should freedom of speech not be further abridged with sensible laws to prevent hate speech or to limit the speech of those disloyal individuals who would sow dissension among our neighbours?
The best argument against censorship, in my own opinion; is the free market. In a society with unabridged freedom of speech, each individual is free to promote their own ideas to the market. The number of others who will agree with them will of course vary, as it well should.
I would hope for example, that a man promoting the ideas of fascism would have a difficult time finding supporters of his ideals, while a man promoting the abolition of slavery would have a much easier task.
Yet this has not always been the case, and I think that this provides yet more reasons to oppose censorship. For at one time, public opinion thought slavery a perfectly natural and ordinary part of life, and the dissenting opinions expressed by the abolitionists were a tiny minority. Yet eventually, through the marketplace of public discourse, they won.
They won, not through government edict, not through some bureaucrats paperwork, nor by conquest on the battlefield, though these things did play a role. Instead, they won because their ideas gained traction in the free market of ideas. Slowly supplanting the established attitudes and gaining additional market share.
It is this essential force of the market that censorship threatens. This threshing of wheat from chaff, that is under attack from those who would censor our public discourse. For the free market will elevate those ideas which benefit our society, and it will leave the ideas which do us harm in the fringes.
This is not a perfect system of course. Human beings are not inherently perfect. We make mistakes, we make errors. Yet over time, it is the invisible hand of the free market of ideologies and view points that will ultimately improve our society, and it is a market in which censorship has no place.

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