Archive for August, 2006|Monthly archive page
Often hailed as a fundamental concept for the modern interpretation of Democracy, and a rallying cry for liberals of all sorts, free speech has become a kind of mantra – repeated so often, that the original meaning is lost. In a statist context, freedom of speech does not in fact exist.
So what does “Free Speech” even mean? Simply stated, it’s “the right to express yourself, up to certain limitations, within a public forum.” A better definition would be: “the privilege of expressing yourself in limited ways in a medium or property the government claims to own”.
“Wait one moment, that’s incorrect!”, you might say. Let’s take it one at a time:
“the privilege of expressing yourself”- what does that mean, and why replace “right” with “privilege”?
A ‘privilege’ is different from a ‘right’ in the sense that you have to ask permission to benefit from it. A right is simply something you have and can use without permission. As long as the government can regulate free speech (even if it choses not to), freedom of speech does not exist. For instance, if a slave is given certain freedoms by his master, but the master can rescind those at any moment, that person cannot be said to be free.
Secondly, as it is generally understood, free speech is bounded. “Hate speech,” “intolerance,” or usually anything that disagrees with political correctness is not seen as part of free speech. Factually, free speech comes close to: “expression that does not hurt anyone’s feelings.”
Finally, freedom of speech applies only within media the government claims to own. The government has claims of ownership on several kinds of public spaces: roads, public squares, newspapers or the radio spectrum. Freedom of speech does not apply in private spaces – you can speak freely within the confines of your house, and you are certainly right to censor people from expressing themselves in such a place.
Without a government to own public territory, all expression is confined to private spaces (these might be public in the same sense that a Mall has access ways and corridors, but it is privately owned). Similarly, the Internet, while generally understood as public space, is in fact private (almost all the equipment used to power it is held in private hands).
Thus, from a purely libertarian perspective, free speech is irrelevant. Private property rights can cover all possible forms of public expression, without the need for government interference.
A “corporation” is an artificial creation of the “legal system”, its a non-existent entity, it’s a fiction. It can’t “do” stuff — it can’t control, nor help anybody. It’s the men and women who “do” stuff, in the “name” of the corporation.
An argument similar to anarchist arguments against the state.
So what’s the problem with the corporation argument? At first glance, we might incline to agree: only individuals act, a corporation is not an individual, therefore corporations don’t act – they don’t do anything. Corporations are made up of people, and only those can be said to act, not the corporations themselves.
Consider this case:
We have individuals A, B, C. These decide voluntarilly to pool some capital (money, goods, ideas) in order to be of benefit to them. This pool can also be called “corporation” or “company.”
Also, A, B and C elect another person: D, who will decide the day-to-day matters of the company (we will call him the CEO). So far, we see no problem, all matters are decided voluntarily.
Now, A, B and C might decide to put some of their control of the company into shares, which they could sell to someone else. Thus, they can get back some money early in the game, and also have additional capital for investments. So we have an entire range of people: S1, S2, …, whom we will call “shareholders.” It can also happen that A, B and C have sold off all their shares and the company resides entirely in public hands. This still does not change the voluntary nature of the company.
By investing their capital in the company, A, B, C, as well as the Ses are making voluntary decisions. We cannot say that an artificial creation has emerged that acts on its own self. All “actions” of corporations can be traced down to invidiual actions and choices.
Equally, an individual has the choice of wether or not to engage in relationships with the corporation (either as an employee, shareholder or customer).
So we can conclude that corporations are indeed not legal fictions. They are groups of individuals acting together towards common goals.
Winners write history, and make sure to portray themselves as favourable . The evolution of civilisation looks almost like a linear progression from evil to good; only with momentary subnotes of regression and genocide. Winners must justify their power. He who controlls the past…
This article by Eric Margolis touches on exactly that topic. It was convenient to forget the crimes of Stalin, while advertising those of Hitler. “The war for Democracy against the terrible empire” – yeah, right!
I was shocked to receive a flood of mail from young Americans and Canadians of Ukrainian descent telling me that until they read my article, they knew nothing of the 1932–33 genocide in which Stalin’s regime murdered 7 million Ukrainians and sent 2 million to concentration camps.
So has the extermination of the Don Cossacks by the Soviets in the 1920’s, and Volga Germans, in 1941; and mass executions and deportations to concentration camps of Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, and Poles. At the end of World War II, Stalin’s gulag held 5.5 million prisoners, 23% Ukrainians and 6% Baltic peoples.
Almost unknown is the genocide of 2 million of the USSR’s Muslim peoples: Chechen, Ingush, Crimean Tatars, Tajiks, Bashkir, Kazaks. The Chechen independence fighters today branded “terrorists” by the US and Russia are the grandchildren of survivors of Soviet concentration camps.
Though Stalin murdered 3 times more people than Hitler, to the doting Roosevelt he remained “Uncle Joe.” At Yalta, Stalin even boasted to Churchill he had killed over 10 million peasants. The British-US alliance with Stalin made them his partners in crime. Roosevelt and Churchill helped preserve history’s most murderous regime, to which they handed over half of Europe.
More on the Ukrainian famine.
It is often in writing and otherwise that American Libertarians bring forth for their arguments one certain piece of paper called “The Constitution.” Written by a group of wise men some 2 centuries ago, it is supposed to be the one and ultimate standard by which to judge governance. So self-sufficient are these statements that they do not need further proof.
The document of the US constitution (“as the Founding Fathers meant it”) has morphed into an interesting rendition of an equally famous document written nearly 2 millenia ago. Yes, the Constitution bears the same significance, and equally the same mystical air as the Holy Bible. The Founders are thus holy patron saints, their words to be taken as true Gospel and their ideas to be followed without question.
Does the World perhaps limit itself to the borders of the United States? What sort of significance can this paper have for non-Americans? Are we to deduce the USA is an equivalent to the Biblical “chosen people”? Why the conceit, dear Libertarians? Can freedom only stand on one shore of the Atlantic?
In the words of the famous monkey in chief, “the Constitution is just a piece of paper,” it has no other importance but historical. The simple fact that it was signed by certain people, at a certain time, is not in any way binding on anyone else. It’s not a contract. So why do Libertarians hold their certain religious fervor towards it? Could it be that in the absence of their determination, they themselves would doubt it? Can no better argument for freedom be made than – “it’s in the Constitution, therefore it’s true”?
I’m not saying the principles are false, but it is necessary to take the statements for what they are worth, not give them value by the simple virtue of belonging to the Constitution.
If the instrument meant to say that any of “the people of the United States” would be bound by it, who did not consent, it was a usurpation and a lie. […]
Such an agreement clearly could have no validity, except as between those who actually consented to it. If a portion only of “the people of the town of A—–,” should assent to this contract, and should then proceed to compel contributions of money or service from those who had not consented, they would be mere robbers; and would deserve to be treated as such.
Finally, words from one Sheldon Richman:
[…]a free society depends ultimately on people having a proper sense of just conduct. This means more than the words they recite or put on paper. Most crucial is how they act and expect others to act. For this reason it is futile to put undue emphasis on written constitutions as the key to liberty. The real constitution is within — each of us. If the freedom philosophy is not inscribed in the actions of people, no constitution will help.
And to check that I do not give value to the above, by virtue of being said by these people, I invite you to challenge them.
Have a nice time.