Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Philadelphia Statement

 While we're at it, The Philadelphia Statement is another effort to broadcast the value of free speech and open inquiry, with 15163 signatories so far.  A few choice quotes: 

Our liberty and our happiness depend upon the maintenance of a public culture in which freedom and civility coexist—where people can disagree robustly, even fiercely, yet treat each other as human beings—and, indeed, as fellow citizens—not mortal enemies. 

And not just as morally deplorable by virtue of disagreement. We need to listen, not silence.  

... As Americans, we desire a flourishing, open marketplace of ideas, knowing that it is the fairest and most effective way to separate falsehood from truth.

Not an army of censors at internet companies. Concrete objections: 

Common decency and free speech are being dismantled through the stigmatizing practice of blacklisting ideological opponents... Responsible organizations are castigated as “hate groups.” Honest people of good faith are branded “hate agents.” Even mainstream ideas are marginalized as “hate speech.” This threatens our ability to listen, discuss, debate, and grow.

....Corporations are enacting “hate-speech” policies to protect people from “wrong” and “harmful” content. Similarly, colleges and universities are imposing speech regulations to make students “safe,” not from physical harm, but from challenges to campus orthodoxy. 

An interesting perspective: 

These policies and regulations assume that we as citizens are unable to think for ourselves and to make independent judgments. Instead of teaching us to engage, they foster conformism (“groupthink”) and train us to respond to intellectual challenges with one or another form of censorship.

A bit of unhappy history:

Humanity has repeatedly tried expunging undesirable beliefs and ideas....

It has not turned out well.  A nice conclusion:

If we seek to change our country’s trajectory; if we desire unity rather than division; if we want a political life that is productive and inspiring; if we aspire to be a society that is pluralistic and free, one in which we can forge our own paths and live according to our own consciences, then we must renounce ideological blacklisting and recommit ourselves to steadfastly defending freedom of speech and passionately promoting robust civil discourse.


  1. Man, whoever invented blogging obviously couldn't imagine your trash blog

  2. Excellent. I often disagree with John Cochrane, but I am happy to say I agree with him entirely on this particular matter, and I feel broadened when I read his commentary on matters in which we disagree.

  3. The socialists are coming. Taxpayers beware. You won't have any private property to complain about if you don't watch out. Slogan of socialists: " If God did not want them sheared, He would not have made them taxpayers..."

  4. "As Americans, we desire a flourishing, open marketplace of ideas, knowing that it is the fairest and most effective way to separate falsehood from truth."

    But can you acknowledge that maybe in just a small number of instances, FURTHER discussion in the 'marketplace of ideas' is at best pointless, and at worst, harmful? E.g. Do we really need to allow people to mislead the gullible and stupid into believing that the earth is flat? I find it a completely overblown slippery slope argument to say literally everything should be allowed under the guise of free speech. Perhaps flat earth ignorance is practically meaningless anyway, but if we JUST outlawed that argument, would society crumble? I can't even see how allowing it could be a net gain for society, but I can imagine how it causes some minute harm to a few idiots.
    Are ALL of these countries also worse off for preventing people from spreading lies?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_Holocaust_denial#Germany

    The truth often gets ignored, no matter how free your speech is:

    Sometimes paternalism is justified.

    1. One man's 'truth' is another man's 'lie'. Aristotle's model of the heavens was elaborate and complex in its movements. The Church put the Earth at the center of the Universe. Galileo posited an alternative explanation of the movement of the planets and the stars. He was put to the inquisition, and recanted his theories and writings. He was spared the rack; others weren't so lucky. Your statement, "Sometimes paternalism is justified[.]" is a slippery slope that pitches the unwary into a state of Totalism, i.e., the political philosophy that can be summed up as "paternalism writ large". Once you start controlling speech in the interest of paternalism, speech control becomes the be all to end all speech except speech that is acceptable to the censor. The censor may be your next-door neighbor, or the woman across the street. Or, it may be an A.I. machine completely devoid of humanity, built on Machiavellian principles.

  5. And who should make the decision about which ideas are allowed and which are not? Donald Trump is president--should he decide?

  6. Why shouldn't private firms be allowed to delete content that they host? Are you saying they should be socialized as a public utility? Either they have a property right to their servers and what they host or they don't and the public has the right to control them. You even censor comments on this blog, should you be prevented from doing so, or prevented from deleting comments that you don't like?

    Free speech is important, property rights are too. Trampling one to save the other is misguided.

    1. Can the phone company prevent your calls from going through because they don't like what you might say? Why is Big Tech different?


Comments are welcome. Keep it short, polite, and on topic.

Thanks to a few abusers I am now moderating comments. I welcome thoughtful disagreement. I will block comments with insulting or abusive language. I'm also blocking totally inane comments. Try to make some sense. I am much more likely to allow critical comments if you have the honesty and courage to use your real name.