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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Speaking freely

Saw a young feller stating that old truism, "You only have Freedom of Speech from the government."  The presumption is that since the Constitution and Bill of Rights only govern the limits to Federal government power, the rights listed there only apply in that context.  Which is true.  Sort of.   But...

The freedoms that are protected from Federal interference are protected in part because it would be very dangerous to allow the Gummint to interfere with those in particular.  And it is right and proper that they should be protected from such interference.

They are also listed there because they are valuable and desirable in themselves.  The founding fathers, if there ever were such animals, saw value in those freedoms, above and beyond the Federal context, and long before there was a Washington D.C.

We protect freedom of speech, and of the press, and of religion, because we Americans believe that it is important for people to be able to speak freely, to write freely, and to believe freely.   The Constitution only protects them from the Feds, true.  The remaining protections we have to provide ourselves, as a community and as a nation. I stand up for your freedom to speak your mind because it is important to the preservation of my liberties that yours be protected.  I stand up because it's right to stand up.

The founding fathers didn't spell that all out in the Constitution, because that's not what the Constitution is for.  If I recall, the Georgia delegation thought there shouldn't be a Bill of Rights because someday some fool would decide if a right wasn't on the list it didn't exist.  Demeaning the universality of freedoms, enumerated or not, is a similar sort of error.   The need to speak freely doesn't end at the Beltway.  The need to write freely doesn't end on the last page of the New York Times.

John Stuart Mill said it better in "On Liberty," I think.  Feel free to listen to the audio version I posted on  The Federal government isn't the only force from which liberties must be protected.

Does that mean that every possible venue is in some fashion constrained by the Constitution to protect those freedoms for you?  Not at all.  They are constrained to preserve those freedoms because they are good and healthy freedoms for any open society like ours.  If one wishes to preserve that open society, by extension one wishes to preserve the attendant freedoms, even when the practice of those freedoms are ones of which we don't approve.

Are those constraints absolute, and must your freedoms in those venues be totally without bounds?  No, not really.  If you comment on my blog, that's your speech.  But overall, this blog is my speech.  What I include and exclude, what I bind and loose, is part and parcel of the message of my venue, my own speech, my own press. 

I can include those who agree with me.  I can also include those who intelligently disagree with me, where their disagreement adds value to the whole message.  But finally, the content of my speech in my venue must be determined by me.  Your freedom of speech is vitally important.  So is mine.  If I feel a comment doesn't add value, or worse, detracts from the value of my overall message, I'm free to exclude that comment from my message.

So speak freely.  And so will I.

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