Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Freedom's Limits, and Their Importance

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Freedom must be limited to the extent that we not harm others by our own actions. To cite Aristotle, if something is true, then all the data will be in agreement with it (which idea is, incidentally, the basis of the scientific method, aka empiricism). I have some examples to prove that the data is in agreement with that statement, and that data will also help reveal the importance of understanding freedom's limits.

I wrote recently that Palestinians knew full well they were voting for terrorists when they cast their ballots for Hamas. Some self-righteous moonbat (that's slang for an extremist left-winger) decided to leave some propaganda in the comments section of the post. After laughing at the opening "But they didn't" for its assumption of Palestinians naivete, I promptly censored the post.
Firstly, I censored the post because part of what followed was a hysterical apology for Palestinian terrorism. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom to advocate murder, an infringement of others' right to life.
Secondly, I censored the shrill propaganda because it made libellous accusations against the state of Israel. Israel and its citizens have the right to enjoy a good reputation, and not be wantonly insulted. Those of you cynics who will say I'm only writing that because I'm Jewish might do well to read my similar defense of Muslims right not to be libelled.

Understanding that freedom is limited and how is key to the fight against terrorism (itself an abuse of freedom, hence why we take away terrorists' freedom by imprisoning them). This importance is derived from the fact that a major part of the fight against terrorism is the fight to promote critical thinking, which is an expression of freedom of speech. When sophists like the one cited above argue that freedom of speech entitles them to say whatever they want, they are abusing free speech, and devaluing it. As free speech is the basis for critical thinking, such lies actually impede the progress of liberalism.
Atrocities like the Crusades (both the Muslims' and the Christians') are attributable to the low literacy rates and near-universal absence of critical thinkng in the Dark Ages. To fight terrorism, the Arabo-Muslim world can improve its terribly low literacy rates and cultural opposition to critical thinking and freedom of speech. Embrace liberalism.
The importance goes beyond that, though. Freedom that respects one's fellow man is what is being fought for in the war on terrorism. The terrorists are fighting for a distorted view of freedoms that is egotistical and advocates abusing others' rights. Understanding the limits of freedom gives direction and purpose to our fight.

To sum up...
The boundary of one man's freedom is his fellow man's freedom. The data proves this.
Excesses must be censored, and I mean that not just in the sense of eliminating some expression, but in the larger sense of actively opposing such excesses.
The limits of freedom of speech are important both for maintaining its value, and directing our battle against terrorism.

Update/Clarification: Thanks to TKC for pointing out my poor syntax. In writing "Understanding that freedom is limited and how is key to the fight against terrorism (itself an abuse of freedom, hence why we take away terrorists' freedom by imprisoning them)," I meant that terrorism is an abuse of freedom. I did not mean that the war on terror is an abuse of freedom (and reading the rest of my political commentary will show I'm an ardent supporter of the fight against terrorists).

Related articles:
On Democracy and Liberalism Democracy does not freedom make.
Osama and Coffee Humour at the terrorist's expense
Daniel Pipes Response No, Mr. Pipes, there is no such thing as a "right to insult."
Militant Islam vs Europe Just what it says.

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At 7:53 a.m., Canadian Politico Blogger Sabba Hillel said:

There is a difference in perspective between (for example) the Bible and the curren United States view of freedom. Actually, I think that the founders view was closer to that of the Bible than the current one. The Bible regards peoples' actions from the viewpoint of responsibility. That is, we are responsible to not steal from our fellow man. Thus, the right to be secure in our possessions is implied. The current view is that everyone has a right to be secure in our property. Thus, the responsibility not to steal is implied.

While in many cases, the practical results may be the same, the basic principle is different. In the case of freedom of speech that you bring up, the parctical result is indeed different. The Bible (and the founders) view was that each person has a responsibility to speak properly and tell the truth. Each person also has the responsibility to not infringe on another person's legitimate opinions and ability to speak the truth.

That results in the limits on free speech that you discuss in your article. THe unlimited right to free speech that the current assumption leads to, on the other hand, implies a violation of that responsibility.

At 12:08 p.m., Canadian Politico Blogger lecentre said:

That was an incredibly deep post, Sabba Hillel, I'm in awe!
Would you care to join the team and write for Centrerion: Canadian Politics?

At 4:17 p.m., Canadian Politico Blogger TKC said:

I disagree that the war on terrorism is in itself an abuse of freedom because we imprison terrorists. Your very first right is the right to your own life. Without it everything else is meaningless. When a person attempts to take away this basic right then they forfeit their own. It is not an abuse of freedom to defend your life from those that would take it.

At 10:07 p.m., Canadian Politico Blogger lecentre said:

You and I agree then. What happened is a slight miscommunication between us. I meant that terrorism is an abuse of freedom, and that's why we take away terrorists' freedom. I did NOT mean that the war on terrorism is an abuse of freedom, though I see my syntax could give that impression.
The war on terrorism, as you'll see from reading the rest of my political commentary and analysis, has a strong supporter here at Centrerion: Canadian Politics.


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