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Response to Confusious (Reply #14)

Wed Aug 1, 2012, 05:51 PM

28. Are you really arguing that the Declaration of Independence is right wing talking points?

Where did you get this? What you're arguing against is rooted in the Enlightenment and is the foundation for liberal democracy. There's nothing "right wing" about saying "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights..." (Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin were criticized for not saying "God" at the time, but preferred the vague, more flexible language). That same Declaration goes on to say "...that governments are instituted among men to protect those rights."

Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin, along with every major thinker in American history (Paine, MLK, everybody named Roosevelt, etc.), would tell you that people create governments in order to protect their natural rights (life, liberty, etc.). Governments don't create rights; they only protect them or they fail to do their jobs as governments, ie, become tyrannies.

If you're arguing that fundamental human rights are derived from the government, rather than from the fact of being a human being, then you're flying in the face of the entire liberal tradition going back to Locke, Rousseau, and Montesquieu. If governments, rather than nature, grant rights, then the government is an appropriate instrument for the denial and restriction of fundamental rights.

Just because China and Germany restrict certain free speech rights doesn't argue against the fact that governments don't have the right to do so. China isn't exactly a model I'd ever use for what a government ought to do with respect to the rights of dissidents. I'm not sure why you thought I'd find that example persuasive. I know why Germany restricts depictions of Naziism, and I'm sympathetic, but it's still wrong. But you can't kill bad ideas with censorship; you can only kill them with better ideas.

The right to free speech is not an American right; it's a fundamental human right that the American government happens to (imperfectly) respect. Again, I think the Olympics organizers were well within their rights to expel those Lithuanians for displaying hateful ideas. But when you drag the government into it, you shift the argument away from "are their ideas right or wrong?" to basic question of "does a person have the right to express wrong ideas?" Those are entirely different questions.

Like Frank Zappa said, if you don't believe in free speech for people you disagree with, you don't believe in free speech. With respect, I think you're on the wrong side of that question.

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LineLineLineReply Are you really arguing that the Declaration of Independence is right wing talking points?
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