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How Government Threatens Freedom of Speech

In this short clip from a panel discussion, ARI’s Steve Simpson talks about threats to free speech from government. Here’s a transcript:

Steve Simpson: I don’t want to minimize government — government is always a potential threat to free speech. And it’s an actual threat both here and in Europe. I think it’s actually worse in Europe because you guys have hate speech laws, which are a serious, serious threat to free speech.

But, I mean, if you talk about college campuses — we’ve discussed the impact of Title IX and the fact that — and you can think about anti-discrimination laws, I mean, campaign finance laws are a threat. There are all kinds of governmental threats, both overt that are easy to see and then, more sort of covert — I mean, the very existence of public universities I see as a threat to freedom of speech – because we’re financing people’s ideas, and then the question is: Whose ideas do you finance? And then you have a scramble for more government money, and that kind of crowds out — the truth sort of gets crowded out that way. Or people stop caring about the truth one way or another, and they just are fighting for funds.

So I don’t want to minimize government. The way I would put it is that the primary threat to free speech, as with any other right, is the initiation of force by criminals, governments, the pope, organized religion.

And then, you know, in the olden days it was criminal gangs and, you know, the kings and the popes – these days it’s modern governments. Or, if we end up allowing what’s happening on college campuses now, which is essentially, you know, criminal gangs of students — that’s the way I would put it — roving gangs of students who attack other people for speaking out; that if you ruin the rule of law, you will not have free speech anymore. So we have to be really clear about: The real threat is, you know, using force against people and whether that comes from government or private people.

The panelists are Steve Simpson, director of Legal Studies at the Ayn Rand Institute and editor of Defending Free Speech; Flemming Rose, author of Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on the Future of Free Speech, and Dave Rubin, creator and host of The Rubin Report. The event, “Free Speech Under Attack,” took place at Objectivist Summer Conference 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, June 13, 2017.