Do Libertarians Believe in Freedom of Speech?

by Libertarian Country December 07, 2022

Do Libertarians Believe in Freedom of Speech?

Freedom of speech, or the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, is a cornerstone belief of libertarians. Yes, libertarians fully endorse freedom of speech.

The essence of speech is communication, and being able to communicate your thoughts, opinions and beliefs--whether it's through spoken word, writing, art or any medium-- is the foundation of a free society.

Embracing and endorsing free speech is a virtue to any freedom-loving people, and must always be defended and protected.

Should Hate Speech be Protected Under the First Amendment?

What about Hate Speech

When discussing the intricacies of free speech, it's inevitable that this question will arise. Hate speech is defined as "abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation."

Libertarians, by nature, do not endorse hate speech; they believe in freedom for all individuals regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation etc. However, libertarians do not support the government having the authority to censor or curtail any speech, regardless of how it's defined.

If the government has the authority to censor speech based on any credential (that is, if it's dubbed "Hate Speech") then they wield the power to curtail any speech they want-- all they would have to do is invoke censorship under the premise that the speech is "too dangerous" or "harmful."  

Libertarians are principled in the art of defending free speech. No speech, no matter how vile or repugnant, can be deemed too offensive to censor, allowing the marketplace of ideas to remain perpetually free and open.

It's an art form, defending free speech, because it can be a natural human instinct to want to shield or protect others from so-called 'dangerous' speech. But principle must always supersede any desire to implement censorship.

If We Don't Ban Hate Speech, How Do We Protect Against it?

In the marketplace of free expression, good ideas are repeated and gain approval, rising to the surface as speech perceived as valuable. This isn't to say that all unpopular opinions are negative or bad, but negative and repugnant speech fizzle out in this way. 

The best way to kill a bad idea is with a good idea.

Vile, repugnant and even dangerous ideas will always exist. Moreover, they will always find a way to endure in the subterranean world of the internet or the underground. If the government censors or ban this type of speech, it can become more dangerous than on the surface, because everyday people are unaware that it's taking place. Being censored can also inspire passion and righteousness, allowing those who have been censored to feel a sense of martyrdom and zeal.

Best practices

The best practice is to allow all ideas to enter the marketplace of free expression. Never allow the government to decide what is acceptable and what should be censored. In the marketplace of ideas, good ideas will be victorious and bad ideas will be defeated.   

Principled libertarians must always defend the freedom of speech.

For more information, see What is Libertarianism?

 



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