"is senior lecturer and director of undergraduate studies in the economics department at Harvard University and senior fellow at the Cato Institute."
It is simpler to highlight the major points of his article, than to elaborate on each in detail, because his opinions are succinct and to the point. So here goes...
The argument for free speech holds simply that the harms from government restrictions on speech are worse than the harms from free speech itself. If government can determine what constitutes acceptable speech, it will use that power to restrict speech in inappropriate ways.
Opponents of the civil rights movement, for example, could readily have argued that inflammatory speech by some civil rights leaders posed a violent threat, especially since a few civil rights advocates, like the Black Panthers, presented themselves as well-armed, and indeed committed (a few) acts of violence. Civil rights opponents could then have used real or alleged connections between violent and nonviolent groups to restrict speech by all civil rights advocates.
The reality is that every movement, sensible or nutty, has a range of followers, and some go too far. Government must pursue and punish those who commit violent acts, but empowering government to restrict speech, as opposed to violence itself, gives authorities latitude to target almost any cause.
Thus the harms of free speech are the price we pay for the freedom to criticize our government and attempt to persuade others to share our views.He closes with a statement that is nothing short of brilliance!
Free speech does mean, of course, that politicians have the right to call for misguided restrictions on speech. Let's just hope the rest of us have the good sense to ignore them.Thank you Mr. Miron, and though it makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth when I say it... Thank you CNN for posting this as well (even with your disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jeffrey Miron).