“If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to the slaughter.” –George Washington
The importance of the freedom of speech is underestimated by most people.
George Washington stressed the instrumental role of the freedom of speech — as a defense against oppression. But freedom of speech, like the right to be left alone, is also something of value in and of itself, even if there was no possibility of being oppressed.
I wrote this piece for India Current (June 2016 issue). I reproduce it here, for the record. Continue reading
“Liberty and good government do not exclude each other; and there are excellent reasons why they should go together. Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end. It is not for the sake of a good public administration that it is required, but for security in the pursuit of the highest objects of civil society, and of private life. Increase of freedom in the State may sometimes promote mediocrity, and give vitality to prejudice; it may even retard useful legislation, diminish the capacity for war, and restrict the boundaries of Empire.”
— Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity 
My friend Veer shared this advertisement from 1947.
After 68 years, Indians are still fighting a war on poverty and it is still an “Uphill Task Ahead.” Very little has changed since 1947 in the economic environment, and what little change there has been regressive. Certainly relative to 1947, Indians have progressed but relative to others, India has slipped further behind.
The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost invariably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And if he is not romantic personally, he is apt to spread discontent among those who are. ― HL Mencken
And usually these troublemakers are the ones who need to be muzzled through suppression of speech and expression.
“A society that does not recognise that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom.”
Friedrich August von Hayek (1899 – 1992). Austrian economist.
First post of 2014 and therefore sets the tone for the rest of the year — freedom. Individual freedom. Actually, freedom is about individuals. Collectives are really an abstraction and in reality only individuals exist. So to say that a particular collective is free — Indians or Americans or Africans — what is really meant is that each individual in that collective is free. The question is: what is the individual free from? From coercion by other individuals. The following is an opinion piece published last month in Niti Central.
Best wishes for a wonderful 2014.
Now for the important matter of the distinction between rights and freedoms. Of late, there has been a proliferation of rights. There’s the right to information, right to employment, right to food, right to education, and so on. Somehow people start thinking that the expansion of rights enhances freedom but in fact it is the opposite: the expansion of rights actually reduces our freedom.