Never expect full freedom of speech

Don’t expect that we will ever have total freedom of speech in content.

It is an object of libertarians.  But unobtainable.

On the eve of Leveson’s report next week keep this in mind.  He will propose restrictions on the freedom of speech of the press.  And many will criticism him for restricting freedom of speech.  See what the Tory minister Michael Gove is already saying.

An irregular verb

But my freedom of speech is to libel you.  Your freedom of speech is to insult me.  Her freedom of speech is to lie.  His freedom of speech is to deceive.

There are boundaries to our social freedoms.  Just as there are boundaries to our behaviour.  Should I have freedom of behaviour?  To attack you? To burn your home down?  To steal from you?  No.  If the expression of my liberty impinges on yours, I should be restrained.  This was the great message of John Stuart Mill in his book On Liberty.

He got it right: I don’t have the right to act to damage your liberty, nor to sell my own.

Freedom of speech is freedom from those in power telling is what we can say.  It was heroically fought for against the powers of churches and states.   But between us all, in a civil society we should not expect it, because of the damage it does to others.

It seems that those on twitter who tweeted McAlpine’s name as a paedophile through that freedom of speech existed in this broadcast media.  They are finding out at their cost that there are limits.   They should have known better.


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