Talk about freedoms not being absolutes usually masks an agenda of statist opposition to free speech. By mixing up speech as an instrument of conduct (sometimes unlawful) with speech as a conveyor of ideas (sometimes heretical) statists can piggyback arbitrary restrictions on consensual practices. The state that can outlaw bad cheques can outlaw bad poetry. I don’t just mean that the state has the power; that goes without saying. The state has the power to do anything, except to continue viewing itself as a liberal democracy if it indulges in authoritarian practices. After it has grabbed society by the short hairs (as they used to say in the 1960s) the state must make sure our hearts and minds follow. That’s a breeze for a tyranny, but a tough call for a liberal state.On the other hand, someone who pushes for, say, compulsory "celebration" of our differences, can be certain of having a long and storied career in that silly, sorry sector.
Compelling liberalism, hard as it may be, is the smaller problem. The bigger problem is that it’s illiberal to do so. In 1977, the year human rights commissions and “hate literature” legislation started in Canada, such laws seemed progressive. Those of us who had trouble believing that liberalism would be achieved by wiping liberalism out were in a minority.
“We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and even if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still,” wrote John Stuart Mill 150 years ago. To my contemporaries this sounded like gibberish. Come again, sir? Stifling a false opinion, evil? Is the man crazy? Boy, he wouldn’t last long on the staff of Human Rights Commissioner Jennifer Lynch.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Compelling Liberalism is Ipso Facto Authoritarianism
George Jonas, one of the few naysayers when our official state Utopians/busybodies (a.k.a. our "human rights" system) were starting out all those decades ago, has the satisfaction of knowing that all his dire predictions have come to pass. He writes: