Just when we might have thought that our society could not descend further down the rabbit hole comes news that the City of Los Angeles is offering a deal to the "Occupy LA" protesters who await trial for having dared to exercise their First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceable assembly. If these potential defendants will just cough up $355 each and agree to attend a class in "free speech" conducted by a private organization, they can avoid a trial that could result in heavy fines or imprisonment. The LA Chief Deputy City Attorney stated that "the First Amendment is not absolute," a remark that could only have been uttered by one who had never taken the time to read this provision. That Amendment reads, in relevant parts, "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, . . . or the right of the people peaceably to assemble." This amendment does not read "Congress shall make no unreasonable law": it reads "no law," a proposition that is about as absolute as one can get. Nor does it say that the state can sell free speech and peaceable assembly rights to those who would like to exercise them, in lieu of going to prison!
For a private organization to be the beneficiary of such an outrageous assault on peaceful, individual liberty only reinforces our understanding of the tyrannical nature of the coercive corporate-state system. It is also a reminder of the important distinction to be kept between the business system and the free-market system.