Tag Archives: freedom of speech

J.B. Bury on the Role of Church and State in History

When church and state compete against each other, the people are mostly left alone, and prosper. When they work together, well:

The conflict sketched in these pages appears as a war between light and darkness. We exclaim that altar and throne formed a sinister conspiracy against the progress of humanity.

J.B. Bury, A History of Freedom of Thought, p. 177.

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J.B. Bury on Freedom of Thought

A noble sentiment:

“If the history of civilization has any lesson to teach it is this: there is one supreme condition of mental and moral progress which it is completely within the power of man himself to secure, and that is perfect liberty of thought and discussion. The establishment of this liberty may be considered the most valuable achievement of modern civilization, and as a condition of social progress it should be deemed fundamental.”

-J.B. Bury, A History of Freedom of Thought, p. 182.

CEI Podcast — November 15, 2010: Free Speech and Video Games

Have a listen here.

Associate Director of Technology Studies Ryan Radia gives his take on a Supreme Court case concerning California’s ban of violent video game sales to minors. Keeping such things away from children is traditionally a job for parents.

The case has implications that reach far beyond video games. Because censorship is such a subjective thing, allowing it could have a chilling effect on forms of expression from art to music to film. The First Amendment specifically prohibits the government from sanitizing culture. That is up to the people themselves.

Send Your Kids to Camp Politics

This new video from the Institute for Justice is funny and sad at the same time.

A Telling Headline

From The Hill: Vulnerable Democrats defend support for campaign finance legislation

Campaign finance regulations are an incumbent’s best friend. The incumbent already has name recognition, and a deep network of fundraising contacts. Heck, Congress’ franking privilege allows incumbents to send out de facto campaign messages for free. Challengers have none of those advantages.

It takes a lot of money to buy enough ads to get a challenger’s name recognition anywhere near the incumbent’s. Campaign finance regulations make it harder to raise that money, and harder to put up a fight against established officeholders. No wonder so many incumbents from both parties favor strict campaign finance regulations! It’s good for their job security.

Regulation of the Day 134: Not Voting

The lede to this Denver Post article says it all:

RIDGWAY — Residents of this Old West- meets-New Age town can be fined if their fences are too high, they have too many chickens, their dogs aren’t on leashes or their weeds are out of control.

Tom Hennessy would like to add not voting to that list.

There are three things wrong with Mr. Hennessy’s proposed regulation. One is that mandatory voting is a violation of personal freedom. To vote or not is an important choice that people make for themselves. It is not Mr. Hennessy’s place to make that decision for others. Many countries have tried mandatory voting over the years, most notably the Soviet Union.

The second thing wrong with mandatory voting is that it violates freedom of speech. Mr. Hennessy is aware that compelled speech is just as unconstitutional as censored speech. That’s why he proposes a “none of the above” option on ballots. But some people are sending a deliberate message when they choose not to vote. Mr. Hennessy would fine them for sending that message.

The third point is that, maybe, some people shouldn’t vote. If I step into a voting booth not knowing a thing about the candidates or the issues, I am essentially choosing at random. And choosing wrong means voting against everything I stand for.

Even worse, human beings have built-in cognitive biases that affect their voting habits. Economist Bryan Caplan’s book The Myth of the Rational Voter identifies anti-foreign bias, anti-market bias, make-work bias, and pessimistic bias, for starters.

Even relatively informed voters fall prey to these biases. They vote accordingly. The difference of opinion between economists and the general public on economic issues is startling. Nobody argues relativity with a physicist thinking they’ll win. But voters from both parties argue against the laws of economics every election, often in error but never in doubt.

Despite its flaws, democracy has worked tolerably well in this country for a long time. Perhaps the best part of our particular democracy is that people are free to choose their level of engagement with it. That should be your choice. Not Tom Hennessy’s.

(Full disclosure: CEI takes no stance on whether to vote, or for whom. Neither do I. I personally have not voted since 2002, but seriously consider it every year.)

On the Radio – Campaign Finance

In about 20 minutes, I’ll be appearing on Paul Molloy’s radio show to talk about campaign finance regulation and free speech. Give a listen if you’re in the Tampa, FL or Little Rock, AR area.

You can also tune in by clicking here.