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Rand Paul and Unpopular Principle

20 May

Some are giving Rand Paul a hard time for his position that business owners should be free to govern their private business as they see fit, even if they choose to discriminate based on race. Many in the mainstream media are highly critical of Rand Paul’s position, but these are the same people who belong to the ACLU. Now the ACLU actively defends the free speech rights of racists and child molesters, yet this is not criticized by the media. The mainstream media has (correctly) bought into the idea that free speech is only meaningful if those whose views you find repugnant are also free to express their opinions. This is good, but for Libertarians speech isn’t the only principle worth defending.

There is also the principle of the free market and the belief that consumers should be empowered to make decisions with their dollars rather than having the government dictate behavior. This principle is radical because it trusts individuals to be the final arbiters of what is right and wrong. They trust the people to not spend money at establishments that they find morally repugnant. They trust that the same spirit that encourages PETA members to not buy from companies that support cruelty to animals exists in all people. They believe in the people enough to trust that they will make moral decisions with their dollars and not frequent businesses that engage in racist practices.

Free speech advocates believe that good speech will triumph over hateful speech, because of human nature. Likewise, many Libertarians believes that good business practices will triumph over discriminatory practices because of human nature. Both principled positions are rooted in a belief in freedom and a trust in the judgment of individuals. The difference lies in the fact that the belief in free speech is safe, as a widely held principle, within the mainstream media, while the belief in the free market is not. In the movie The American President free speech saw one of its most moving defenses:

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’ You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.

Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”

If you truly trust the people, why doesn’t that trust extend beyond free speech? Government should not be allowed to discriminate and Rand Paul is not advocating that. He simply believes that trust in individuals can and should extend to private businesses and their patrons.


Too Precious

1 Sep

I’ve been deleted. Well, at least my comments were deleted. It all started when I followed a link on Twitter to John Scalzi’s blog. There I found a post dripping with a smug sense of superiority that was too hard to resist. I proceeded to criticize one of Mr. Scalzi’s responses to a commenter. I, of course, questioned his intelligence, because this is the most sensitive subject for most left leaning individuals.

John did not appreciate my comment and responded in predictable fashion. Because I had bruised his ego, he felt the need to react with a banal retort. The back and forth that commenced finally resulted in John deleting my comments. A man who boasts that his blog receives forty-five thousand visitors a day, felt the need to delete me. In the grand scheme I am nobody (I like it that way), which makes John’s actions all the more entertaining. Mr. Scalzi is not the first person I’ve messed with against my better judgment, but he may be one of the more well known.

Here is a screen shot for posterity.

Update: John explains..

It is true that I was a snide dick, but you can’t read the man’s post/comments and tell me he didn’t deserve a little bit of the mirror treatment. It’s not as if I went about bruising the ego of an otherwise thoughtful and respectful person. I kicked sand in the face of a bully who likes kicking sand around in his sandbox. If men like John don’t deserve a little rhetorical sand in their face, then who does?

Veiled Threats and Silencing Dissent

31 May

Some in this world hate freedom of speech. Some in this world hate others who differ with them so much that they try to silence them through intimidation and veiled threats. The actions of such people harm us all.

John Stuart Mill was a great philosopher and an important figure in the post-enlightenment era. In, On Liberty, Mill made one of the most forceful and significant arguments for freedom of speech. Mill stated,

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension of feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction from reason or personal experience.“

Today we have people who spend their time trying to prevent the search for truth. They wish to silence those they disagree with and, by doing so, they harm us all. When people are silenced by bullying and threats we are all harmed. We are robbed of discovering a potential truth that can only come about through unfiltered and unedited dialogue.

Jenny Waite is a friend of mine and an extremely thoughtful person. It is not my place to tell her personal story, but she speaks from a place of experience. By posting her statement, out of context, John Pettitt is attempting to silence future dissent. He states, “One side effect of Twitter is that the stupid, bigoted comments people used to make at the water cooler now get preserved for future employers to find using Google.” He intends to silence those he disagrees with by threatening their personal livelihood. He wants to silence them and others who wish to speak their minds. What he is doing is no different than when a police state attacks protesters.

John Pettitt’s attempt at informal censorship is no different than a Fascist government that executes those who speak out against the state. Both are trying to drive fear into the hearts of opponents. Both are trying to kill debate. At some point we as individuals are going to have to take a stand against these tactics. Informal censorship is insidious and a threat to our very way of life. Whether it come from Bill O’Reilly or John Pettitt, it is still a bully trying to undermine free expression. This kind of action doesn’t just harm the intended target. It harms us all. We are all injured when we are robbed of the benefit of the free exchange of ideas. You don’t have to agree with Jenny, but you should support her right to speak her mind without threat or intimidation. How long until your opinion is subjected to the same treatment?