Liberty and Freedom of the Press

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How
annoying is it that journalists scream bloody murder whenever anyone
goes near their liberty to scribble on endlessly about anything
they like, in any form they prefer, with whatever illustrations
they favor, but have no compunction about calling for government
to meddle in everyone else's profession? Prior restraint is forbidden
by law where the press is concerned but not where all the other
professions are. Rather unfair, don't you think?

We
all know that when freedom of the press is respected and protected,
it means that not just your local paper or The New York Times
but also yellow journalism, Hustler Magazine and other filthy stuff
is safe from government intrusion. Yet, if a journalist is concerned
that maybe something the government does is getting close to censorship,
we do not accuse him of trying merely to indulge in reading pornography.
Freedom of the press is supposed to be a good thing, even if Hustler
gets to enjoy it too. Moreover, it would be insulting to accuse
all those who believe in this variety of human liberty that all
they are after is to support Hustler and similar sleazy publications.

Now
compare this to when champions of economic liberty make their case.

What
are they accused of? Mostly of simply wishing to unleash greed and
avarice throughout the marketplace, that's what. Any effort to keep
government out of the economic lives of people is written off by
many supporters of government intervention and regulation as simply
a way to open the door for big business to pursue unlimited, obscene
profits. They charge defenders with wanting only to rationalize
away such greed.

As
someone who has written a thing or two in defense of the free market
economic system I have experienced this countless times. People
all over the landscape — in the academy, letter writers in newspapers,
authors of critical books and reviewers — insist that I am simply
serving the interest of the rich. Quite a few believe that they
can fully explain my support of capitalism by reference to my own
personal interest in accumulating limitless capital. They do this
without ever inquiring about my life, my wealth, my earnings, my
investments or my land holdings. They just know that I must be advocating
these ideas because of the vested interest that drives me.

But
then are we to say that all defenders of the free press mean only
to unleash everything nasty people can produced and create once
their liberty is secured? It's never about freedom, then, only about
serving some personal agenda, usually a sleazy one at that!?

Balderdash.
The critics of individual liberty are not only cynics, believing
that when men and women are free, they are hell bent on doing something
bad, such as simply indulging their greed. They also attempt to
avoid, by way of their ploy, the need to actually defend their position.

Having
dismissed their opponents as intent on nothing more reputable than
the fostering of greed and other vices, it no longer needs to be
defended that government's interference in economic matters is something
worthwhile, helpful, just. No, by besmirching the motives of champions
of liberty, their case stands proven by default.

This
was actually how Karl Marx and his many followers in colleges and
universities have gone about opposing capitalism — they accused
all its defenders of merely pleading the case of the rich, of being
in the pockets of the capitalist class. Having thus indicted their
integrity, who needed to bother with actually showing that supporters
of capitalism, such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Locke, Frederick
Bastiat and the rest didn't have a good case. Having belittled them,
arguments against them were superfluous.

But
the ploy will not wash and as soon as someone tries to use it, it
should be noted point blank that it carries no real conviction.
Once this is made clear, perhaps a real argument will ensue about
whether a free society is superior or not to one with all kinds
of government meddling.

March
6, 2004

Tibor
Machan [send
him mail
] holds
the Freedom Communications Professorship of Free Enterprise and
Business Ethics at the Argyros School of Business & Economics, Chapman
University, CA. A Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford
University, he is author of 20+ books, most recently, Putting
Humans First: Why We Are Nature's Favorite
.

Tibor
Machan Archives


        
        

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