Friday, July 29, 2005

"intellectual security"

I read another letter to the editor today (yeah, yeah, I'm doing some heavy reading), which begins with this doozy of a paragraph.

"We want things protected from commercial forces. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution prove that we need government to do this, and the Bill of Rights tell us what the most important things are. Freedom of religion comes first, then freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. But the government is not restricted from promoting free speech, as it is in the case of religion."

Item one: The first sentence is awfully broad, but I will grant that there are things that pure capitalism cannot do.

Item two: The second sentence is a non sequitur. That an organization exists which does something does not prove that (a) that thing should be done, or (b) that, that organization is the proper one to accomplish whatever is accomplished.

Item three: Many of the complaints in the Declaration of Independence are actually our complaints about King George interfering with commercial forces, for example, he restricted the use of new land (all environmentalists, three cheers for King George), he harassed our businesses, and he cut off our trade. There is no mention of King George failing to protect us from commercial forces.

Item four: The ranking of items in the Bill of Rights is not an indication of their importance. For example, I would rank IV and VI (searches and seizures and trial by jury) as more important than III, since the clause "but in a manner prescribed by law" (in reference to the second part) means that in time of war this amendment can be overturned. I would also place IX much higher in the list, since (and I know that some of my conservative readers will be aghast) it means that those rights which are not specifically limited by the Constitution (for example, the "right to privacy" is not covered by the Constitution) are reserved to the people, regardless of whether they are enumerated in the Bill of Rights

Item five: First, following from item four, simply because the government is not specifically limited with regards promoting speech does not mean that it maintains power in this area. Second, how does one promote free speech? One can compel speech, but that is unfree. One can promote free speech solely by removing impediments. Once there are no legal impediments, one can only promote free speech by removing natural obstacles (such as broadcasting and printing costs. However, supporting free speech in such a manner necessitates making value judgements about which kinds of speech should be supported, and is therefore making some people's speech more "free" than others, since some do not face the same obstacles. Though this does not seem to be a restriction, by limiting the amount of media time available to some, one is restricting their ability to communicate.

The rest of the letter gets better, but not by much. It goes from downright wrong to rabidly misinformed.

3 Comments:

Blogger Noumenon said...

How awesome are blogs compared to letters to the editor? And I mean in concept and not just this particular instance of superiority. "Here, you may have your opinion printed right underneath our cartoon, perhaps once a year if we feel like cleaning up your plebeian grammar."

I feel like you're taking on a foeman unworthy of your steel, however.

Many of the complaints in the Declaration of Independence are actually our complaints about King George interfering with commercial forces,

I wish some snarky socialist would do an update of H.L. Mencken's Declaration of Independence (common speech version). It's getting dated.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

I plead technological change. Foemen may be unworthy of steel, but any sap who deserves it can take a broadside (which, I suppose, is also quite dated). In my defense, I read a letter to the editor today that was insightful and revealing. The core of his argument was that, if you want to increase the use of public transportation, you should cut the price of public transportation (to increase ridership, which may cover the cost by filling busses) and also increase the cost of parking in congested areas. Expanding the scale of the public transport would help too. In Ternopil, one is never more than three or four blocks from a trolley stop.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

Yeah, should you reduce the price, or the transaction costs? Waiting on the corner is such a pain.

They should increase the cost of parking anyway. Or do like London and charge to get into the congested areas. After all, more people using public transportation just encourages other people to come out and drive on the less crowded roads.

8:20 AM  

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