Rebirth of Reason


So, Here We Go Again!
by Tibor R. Machan

The lawsuit against a Kentucky school district over a Confederate flag prom dress, set to go to trial in August, is yet another illustration of what trouble is caused by public or government schooling. When Jacqueline Duty reportedly alleges that the Russell Independent Board of Education denied her right to free speech when she was barred from her senior prom in May 2004 because of a homemade dress bearing the confederate flag, she shows that freedom of speech and government schooling are plainly incompatible.

But this has been clear for years. All those lawsuits against school boards about making students say the Pledge of Allegiance, saying a prayer before a football game, etc, and so forth, demonstrate that a prerequisite for being able to exercise the right to free expression is privatization and the institution of private property rights. This is also clear from how broadcasting over government owned airwaves cannot enjoy the protection of freedom of expression — just consider how Howard Stern has been bumped off their air for using foul language (and, indeed, how several decades earlier George Carlin met with a similar fate). That’s also why the Federal Communications Commission has the authority to tell broadcasters that they must air public service messages so many times a week or may not run too many ads during a program. Not very long ago this went so far as to impose on broadcasters the Fairness Doctrine, according to which stations had to be balanced in their treatment  of controversial topics. (This is why tobacco ads were originally taken off the air, because the FCC coerced broadcasters into airing opposition ads to tobacco commercials.) And believe it or not, in our time many modern liberals in Congress, mostly Democrats, are asking for the reinstatement of this policy, seeing nothing wrong in making broadcasters be the mouthpiece of government.

These hassles will not go away until the scope of the public realm is significantly reined in. The greater that realm, the smaller the sphere of free expression and, indeed, of free action. Even such policies as the banning of smoking in “public” establishment, like private restaurants and taverns, gained legal support on the basis that they connected with a public realm such as the street onto which they opened their doors. But this reasoning, as I have noted umpteen times before, one could also begin to censor newspapers sold in boxes sitting on street corners! It is clear that freedom of the press, freedom of artistic expression, and freedom of political speech all rely on the institution of private property rights. In public spaces all these are subject to the authority of public officials who do what they claim is required of them by the democratic process (or some facsimile). Just in a monarchy it is the royal court that calls the shot, so in a democracy the politically active and powerful voters do—often the ones with the fiercest bigotry in their hearts and the greatest influence on government.

Yet this point is hardly every realized by the supposed champions of freedom of speech and expression. ACLU types hardly every defend the institution of the right to private property, even as they claim to find the right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution. But instead of looking to the Fifth Amendment for the right to privacy, where it is clearly linked to the right to private property, they seek in in the Ninth Amendment, where by this time in our constitutional history such a right is very difficult to locate. (That’s because the Ninth has been rendered nearly void through systematic neglect by U.S. courts.)

What this suggests to me is that despite how often modern liberals, Leftists, proclaim their loyalty to freedom of expression, based on the First Amendment, they will not do what is most vital to secure this freedom, namely, affirm and defend the right to private property. That’s because these folks are far more hostile to capitalism, a clear consequence of this right, than they are friendly to free speech, also a clear consequence of it. They are caught on the horns of a dilemma and their stronger sentiments, namely, against economic liberty, renders them intellectually paralyzed for purposes of standing up effectively for
freedom of speech.

Sanctions: 9Sanctions: 9 Sanction this ArticleEditMark as your favorite article

Discuss this Article (2 messages)