Ideas Are More Powerful than Censorship

Another Benjamin Constant quotation; he is quite possibly the most underrated political philosopher of the 19th century. He deserves at least as much acclaim as Mill, Cobden, Bagehot, Bentham, Ricardo, and other better-known liberal giants of that era.

Now that I’m a bit further along in the book, expect to see a few more of these in the coming weeks. Constant can be dense at times, but he is surprisingly quotable. Ideas are more powerful than censorship. He explains why in a single sentence:

“Averting ideas you think dangerous by scorning them or suppressing them violently, is to suspend their present consequences only briefly, and to double their influence to come.”

-Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics, p.14.

The best response to speech you don’t agree with isn’t to scream, “shut up!” It’s to rebut it with speech of your own — on the merits. That’s what the marketplace of ideas is all about. May the best ideas win.


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