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Tag: Freedom of Speech

When Campaign Finance Reform Has the Reverse Effect

When Campaign Finance Reform Has the Reverse Effect

Radley Balko (The Agitator) has an interesting article on actions of the Institute for Justice, which is helping some folks in Mississippi challenge the laws on spending to advocate for a political cause. The idea of such laws, of course, is to provide for openness and accountability in politics. In this case, however, it provides a major barrier to a citizens’ group’s efforts to advocate for a cause.

This is an area where I think liberal policy is largely a dismal failure. We keep writing new regulations, but I don’t think we’re getting cleaner or more intelligent elections.

As a result, political speech is amongst the most regulated types of speech in this country, in spite of the first amendment. The combination of regulating political speech, and creating a sort of media class that has special rights in terms of free speech actually makes such speech much less free.

Once the government gets to decide who really has free speech and who doesn’t, we have no protection from being placed in the class that “doesn’t.” Similarly, if the government can control the money that pays to disseminate speech, it can quite effectively silence whoever it would like.

Beware of laws—they often accomplish precisely the opposite of what they claim.

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Controlling the Money Means Controlling the Speech

Controlling the Money Means Controlling the Speech

Seal of the United States Federal Election Com...
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… and JR 90" href="http://volokh.com/2011/12/09/congressional-bill-would-ban-editorials-about-candidates-or-ballot-measures-by-nearly-all-newspapers/">this amendment will limit free speech. I understand the concern, but I believe that people gathered together in groups must have the same freedom, insofar as possible, as individuals. I don’t think creating greater government control is going to have the effect that people desire.

We keep creating government agencies, such as the FEC, to regulate various activities, and then we’re surprised when the people with the resources get control. It’s inevitable. It simply makes it much more complicated to run an election campaign, and much more dangerous to comment on government during an election, when such comment is most necessary.

The proper response to corporate money is for people to get together and use what they do have to communicate the message and get others involved in the process. I’m not a fan of the big corporations either, but I see the largest problem as the fact that they tend to control the regulatory agencies intended to regulate them. Once you have big money combined with the power of government, you are much worse off.

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No Preaching and Leave Your Bible at Home?

No Preaching and Leave Your Bible at Home?

Via Dispatches I found this story about a lawsuit against the Grossmont Union High School District. The suit alleges that the school forbade the student to bring his Bible to school or to preach. The district tells a different story, claiming the student was very disruptive.

I mention this story for a couple of reasons. The first is our tendency to jump to conclusions. My first response, I must confess, is to think the school is in the wrong, not because of freedom of religion (though I think that’s applicable) but because of freedom of speech. I understand that there are limits–substantial limits–to speech as a student in school, but I tend to think administrators overdo that point. Nonetheless, the more I think about this case, the less certain that becomes. It will be interesting to see what comes out in court, and just who is jumping to conclusions. If the facts were completely as alleged by the plaintiff it would be a slam dunk for them–which makes me wonder.

My second point is that we should, at the same time we teach our children their faith, teach them good behavior and courteous, open, and friendly ways of sharing it. This both provides a witness in their lives as they treat other people with respect, including not forcing religion on them, and it is also just more effective witnessing. We gain nothing through rudeness. I don’t know the facts of this case, just the allegations. But there are genuine cases in which Christians young and old diminish or even pervert their witness through the means they use to carry it out.

Please remember that I do not say this as a way of claiming that this young man did wrong. We don’t yet know precisely what happened. That is what a trial is for.

For this I refer back to my 2006 post, Witness without Being a Pest.

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Distinguishing Freedom and Ability

Distinguishing Freedom and Ability

I have always preferred our classic statements of rights, such as the bill of rights, to such statements as Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms.” What interests me is that while our classic statements of rights indicate things that the government is not permitted to prevent you from doing, the latter two freedoms from Roosevelt’s list, and especially the third, indicate things that you get to have.

The four freedoms Roosevelt mentioned are:

  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of worship
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear

This ambiguity comes up in plenty of discussions of rights. What precisely does “freedom from want’ require, who gets to decide just how much want is permissible, and who gets to decide who has to produce all of that? I, for example, would like a much better computer. It would help me in my creative activities. Perhaps someone should give me one in order to improve my mental health.

Of course I’m not serious about that. Nobody has any duty to give me a computer. I will have to earn the money and buy one. People often assume that we will all have a reasonable definition of “want” in place, but the fact is that we don’t agree on such things.

That, however, is not my main point. I would like to focus on the distinction between these two types of rights. The first, freedom of speech, is provided by the government failing to take certain actions–not suppressing speech. There is, of course, the positive action of maintaining a lawful framework, but that is a requirement for the existence of any right. Freedom from want requires some positive action on someone else’s part, namely to produce the particular goods.

While I believe I have an obligation as a Christian, individually and in community, to care for those who are less advantaged, I have a distinct problem with many of the government programs that do what I believe I must do privately, because they tend to make one person have an inherent, legal right (I think those are oxymoronic, but they are commonly used together) to that which someone else must go out and produce. I advocate certain safety net welfare programs in any case, not as a right of those who receive them, but as part of maintaining a workable society.

But I want to apply this now to speech and to the controversy about intelligent design. There’s a regular chorus going on right now about suppression. I think that chorus is based on a confusion of their rights with someone else’s production.

I have a right to free speech. I do not have a right to any particular medium. If I can find no publisher for my writing, then my writing will not get printed. Since I am a publisher, I have the right to refuse to print someone else’s drivel, or even their masterpiece, and I am not suppressing free speech, even if they find no other way to publish.

Besides forcing someone else to produce what they believe is a right, people who make such claim try to take away the rights of others. Again, illustrating with myself. As a publisher, were I required to print the works of someone even though I chose not to, then my right of free speech is abridged. My right of free speech does not require a carpenter to build a stage, an electrician to wire the sound system, a newspaper to print an ad for my event, nor any person to come an listen to me.

My belief that I have important things to say does not require a college or university to gather students to hear it. There are things that are of value under those circumstances, and other things that are not. If I were the chair of a religion department, for example, I would consider it quite appropriate to refuse a place on the faculty to a KJV-Only advocate, even if he could produce the appropriate accredited degrees.

In High School curricula, we have the need to cover a great deal of material, and some things are in while others are out. We have groups whose job it is to decide which is which. Subject matter needs to meet a threshold of validity and usefulness in order to merit a place in such a curriculum, otherwise you are forcing students to spend time learning that which will not work to their benefit.

Now there is a little glitch in the educational plan. What about state sponsored institutions of higher learning? Shouldn’t they have to provide a platform for anyone in the name of free speech? They are the government, after all. I would say rather than if we allow a government to operate an academic institution, that is precisely what we should expect them to run, and that will mean making choices, discriminating against bad ideas (it isn’t prejudice if you studied it ahead of time!), and allowing some in and not allowing others.

I say to the intelligent design advocates: You don’t have a right to access to scientific journals and faculties. Your presence in such places must be earned. Your ideas should not appear in curricula by right, but rather because they have proven themselves in the appropriate arena.

ID is trying to create a welfare state for ideas. It’s a bad idea economically, and it’s no better of an idea in the realm of ideas.

Against Personal Freedom on the Left

Against Personal Freedom on the Left

Ed Brayton reports on a victory for FIRE against the University of Delaware, which had a diversity training seminar that was mandatory for all students. It was followed up by big brother style watch-dogging.

Just in case some of us might get the idea that it is only right-wing ideologues who would like to indoctrinate people, there is plenty of evidence for the same behavior on the left. Where a particular ideology manages to hold unchallenged authority backed by force, there is an unfortunate tendency to act in this manner.

FIRE is to be congratulated for challenging this type of activity. They are continuing to challenge such practices at the University of Delaware, which, though defeated on this program, has not explicitly agreed to end certain other practices.

Like Us or Die

Like Us or Die

Here’s another case: Leader offers $100,000 for cartoonist’s death.

The head of an al-Qaida-led group in Iraq offered $100,000 for the killing of Swedish cartoonist [tag]Lars Vilks[/tag] over his drawing depicting the Prophet Mohammad.

I’ll say again what I have said before. Blasphemy should not be illegal. I believe in [tag]free speech[/tag] when it’s engaged against my own faith. I don’t change my mind when it’s going against someone else. Muslim leaders who offer this kind of reward simply reflect badly on [tag]Islam[/tag]

Pivar Suit Against PZ Myers Withdrawn

Pivar Suit Against PZ Myers Withdrawn

According to Ed Brayton (Dispatches from the Culture Wars), the suit has been withdrawn. Brayton also makes a number of remarks on this that are totally on point. I agree with him completely as to the nature of the suit and the characters involved.

My previous comments were here. PZ’s very own commentary is here.

Of course, to wish Peter Irons well in dealing with the threat from Pivar’s attorney, Michael Little, would be superfluous.

WordPress.com Banned in Turkey

WordPress.com Banned in Turkey

It appears that WordPress.com has been banned in Turkey because of criticisms of Muslim creationist Adnan Oktar. Oktar appears to be an unusually warped version of creationist, and may well be using creationism to foster Muslim fundamentalism.

The reason I’m linking to this is that it is a free speech issue. As a number of commentators have pointed out on the official wordpress.com blog, if folks violate a TOS, it’s appropriate that they be removed, but not for their opinions.

I hope this will all be resolved in favor of free speech.