PDA

View Full Version : Freedom of Speech



George.
09-23-2012, 05:18 AM
Obviously, this thread derives from recent events, but I am interested in the broader subject, without becoming consumed by the US-vs-Islam angle.

For example, here in Brazil we have municipal elections in a couple of weeks. All parties get free time on TV to put forth their programs. One party is using its time to call for the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeois government, the setting up of popular committees, etc.

This is not only allowed, it is being paid for with public money. I personally think that is a step too far. How about you all?

Peerie Maa
09-23-2012, 05:26 AM
That is democracy at work. If they are calling for an armed uprising, then they are soliciting criminal acts, but there is nothing wrong with calling for a change of the system of government.
If they get elected then they have the mandate to build a different system. They are doomed to fail though, as you need hundreds of committed activists ready to take on the work load, but that is idealism for you, not always practical thinkers.

George.
09-23-2012, 05:37 AM
I tend to think of the overthrow of democracy as a criminal act. The fact that you use democracy to accomplish it is not a mitigating factor.

Peerie Maa
09-23-2012, 05:47 AM
I tend to think of the overthrow of democracy as a criminal act. The fact that you use democracy to accomplish it is not a mitigating factor.
I was suggesting that if the majority of the voters voted for the change it cannot be a criminal act, as it is the expressed will of the population. You talked of popular committees, they are usually representative. It sounds like the replacement of a multi-party system with a single party system. If you want to see how well a two party system works for the good of the nation look at the way the opposition are screwing the US in order to make Obama fail. Three or more parties of equal popularity usually end in deadlock or coalitions that rarely achieve much either.

George.
09-23-2012, 06:06 AM
If the majority of voters elect a radical party, then they can implement their platform - but not eliminate the system that gave them power so that voters cannot change their mind.

Some things are above the whims of a temporary majority - for instance, if a majority of voters wanted to persecute a minority group, that should not be allowed either.

In any case, this kind of party doesn't bother with majorities. If they can get their hands on the levers of power they'll use and abuse them to get their way. Think of the Nazis - they only got about one third of the vote in Germany, and only because of an extraordinary conjuncture which probably wouldn't have lasted long. That didn't keep them from imposing their will on everyone.

PeterSibley
09-23-2012, 06:48 AM
That kind of change would require a referendum here George and they are far harder to win than government.

Peerie Maa
09-23-2012, 07:57 AM
If the majority of voters elect a radical party, then they can implement their platform - but not eliminate the system that gave them power so that voters cannot change their mind.


Why not? Is it written down somewhere?

Democracy is about the will of the majority, no matter how dumb they are.

hanleyclifford
09-23-2012, 08:13 AM
Why not? Is it written down somewhere?

Democracy is about the will of the majority, no matter how dumb they are. In the US it is "written down" in a thing we call the "Constitution".

John Smith
09-23-2012, 08:16 AM
Obviously, this thread derives from recent events, but I am interested in the broader subject, without becoming consumed by the US-vs-Islam angle.

For example, here in Brazil we have municipal elections in a couple of weeks. All parties get free time on TV to put forth their programs. One party is using its time to call for the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeois government, the setting up of popular committees, etc.

This is not only allowed, it is being paid for with public money. I personally think that is a step too far. How about you all?

I think free speech covers one hell of a lot of territory. It most definitely includes speech some might find offensive.

Where I argue with my fellow citizens here is that lying for politcal gain is NOT free speech. I believe that political speech should be open to anything but the distortion of matters of fact.

It's my opinion that by accepting lies as free speech, we risk our future. Ill informed voters are dangerous things.

Peerie Maa
09-23-2012, 08:20 AM
In the US it is "written down" in a thing we call the "Constitution".
Well, I was actually asking George about Brazil.

However, where does your US Constitution bar a single party system of government? You also should remember that there are "out of my cold dead hand" types on this forum who want to be able to rise up and overthrow your democratically elected government and replace it with something more to their liking.

George.
09-23-2012, 09:23 AM
Clarification: the party I mentioned is a fringe party with no chance of doing anything other than foaming at the mouth.

Yes, we can change our system of government, but it would take a hell of a lot more than a majority. Plebiscite, constitutional changes, etc., just like in the US. Possible in theory, but very unlikely.

My point is broader. I think that the right to choose your leaders is a natural right, just like freedom of speech and religion. I don't think that any system of government should be allowed to tamper with it, no matter how many people voted in favor. Not least because those same people might change their minds once they see the results, and must be allowed to regret and backtrack...

George.
09-23-2012, 10:07 AM
Yes, I think change should be bounded, and that any attempts to overcome these boundaries through violence should be resisted with violence, if need be.

I don't think that certain basic rights should be violated under any circumstances. Free speech. Freedom of religion. Habeas corpus. And government by consent of the governed.

I cannot think of even a theoretical example where violation of these would be a good idea - let alone any actual historical example.

Waddie
09-23-2012, 10:22 AM
That's why we have a separation of powers. The Constitution can be changed even to the point of eliminating the democracy - all it would take is enough votes in Congress and enough states to ratify, so it would be extremely difficult - but not impossible. If such a change (amendment) did pass all of that, it would face a decision by our independent judiciary, and have no chance there. So let free speech ring, the radicals have no chance in overthrowing our system except by violent means.

regards,
Waddie

Peerie Maa
09-23-2012, 10:41 AM
That's why we have a separation of powers. The Constitution can be changed even to the point of eliminating the democracy - all it would take is enough votes in Congress and enough states to ratify, so it would be extremely difficult - but not impossible. If such a change (amendment) did pass all of that, it would face a decision by our independent judiciary, and have no chance there. So let free speech ring, the radicals have no chance in overthrowing our system except by violent means.

regards,
Waddie
http://www.ipolitics.ca/2012/06/30/scotus-confirms-liars-have-a-constitutional-right-to-free-speech/

http://www.classwarfareexists.com/scotus-rules-5-4-that-corporations-rights-exceed-states-rights/#axzz27J9mQ416

Waddie
09-23-2012, 10:46 AM
http://www.ipolitics.ca/2012/06/30/scotus-confirms-liars-have-a-constitutional-right-to-free-speech/

http://www.classwarfareexists.com/scotus-rules-5-4-that-corporations-rights-exceed-states-rights/#axzz27J9mQ416

And your point????? Lying and even corporations have rights????? Good, the more freedom the better. Neither of these will ever overthrow the democracy, just remain an irritant.

regards,
Waddie

Peerie Maa
09-23-2012, 10:50 AM
And your point????? Lying and even corporations have rights????? Good, the more freedom the better. Neither of these will ever overthrow the democracy, just remain an irritant.

regards,
Waddie

My point is that you cannot rely on your SCOTUS to either look after the best democratic interests of your fellow citizens, let alone to hand down judgments that include any semblance of common sense.
If there was a Repub majority on the SCOTUS and the Repubs voted the Dems out of existence, is there in anything in your Constitution to oblige the SCOTUS to over rule them?

Osborne Russell
09-23-2012, 11:19 AM
My point is broader. I think that the right to choose your leaders is a natural right, just like freedom of speech and religion. I don't think that any system of government should be allowed to tamper with it, no matter how many people voted in favor. Not least because those same people might change their minds once they see the results, and must be allowed to regret and backtrack...

In American thinking, government derives its legitimate powers from the consent of the governed. The next question is how and when is that consent given and revoked. The mechanism is by elections. Ordinarily, elections are to choose leaders, as you say. There are no elections where the issue is, should the government be dissolved. But there could be a consitutional amendment creating a process whereby the old constitution would be annulled and a new constitution enacted, or not. Then is where your natural right would come in, right? I agree, if the new constitution or regime of whatever kind doesn't provide a mechanism for continuing, periodic expression of consent to be governed, which means at the very least the election of officers, then it isn't legit.

This is why I say that the American Constitution isn't just a choice of democratic republic over monarchy, made on grounds of utility or aesthetics, it's a moral choice, proceeding from the moral judgment that monarchy is immoral, because it infringes the natural right to choose leaders. "Choose" doesn't mean once, for all time, we choose monarchy, and that choice having been made, afterwards, all leaders will be designated by rules of descent or something. With the passage of time, a monarchy progressively loses whatever legitimacy it started out with. Those who gave their consent are gone, and the living have no opportunity to give or not give their consent.

Osborne Russell
09-23-2012, 11:26 AM
My point is that you cannot rely on your SCOTUS to either look after the best democratic interests of your fellow citizens, let alone to hand down judgments that include any semblance of common sense.

Strictly speaking, those are not its functions. The Supreme Court decides legal controversies. How's this for an analogy: the referee is not there to make sure it's a good game, strictly speaking. Hopefully his decisions do make it a good game.


If there was a Repub majority on the SCOTUS and the Repubs voted the Dems out of existence, is there in anything in your Constitution to oblige the SCOTUS to over rule them?

Yes, the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the constitution) and their oaths of office.

skuthorp
09-23-2012, 11:44 AM
Ultimately all 'rights' depend on a societies adherence to the rule of law and the consent of the governed. Neither is necessarily immutable. And courts are likewise not necessarily incorruptible. In a military, or civilian armed coup both are disregarded and an elected political party determined to hold power beyond the next election is just as capable of such a coup as a like minded grouping of civilians. There have been plenty of such examples in the last century.

Waddie
09-23-2012, 12:06 PM
Ultimately all 'rights' depend on a societies adherence to the rule of law and the consent of the governed. Neither is necessarily immutable. And courts are likewise not necessarily incorruptible. In a military, or civilian armed coup both are disregarded and an elected political party determined to hold power beyond the next election is just as capable of such a coup as a like minded grouping of civilians. There have been plenty of such examples in the last century.

Democracy isn't perfect, but I think you can count on the majority of people to do what is right, because it is in their own best interests. A violent overthrow is always a possibility in any society, just remote in a democracy. And since violent overthrow violates the very fundamental principles of democracy, which is change by ballot, it is usually outlawed as a method of change. So could we vote to have a monarchy? Sure, but it's highly unlikely. When pigs fly, as the saying goes....

regards,
Waddie

Peerie Maa
09-23-2012, 12:13 PM
Strictly speaking, those are not its functions. The Supreme Court decides legal controversies. How's this for an analogy: the referee is not there to make sure it's a good game, strictly speaking. Hopefully his decisions do make it a good game.Not a good analogy. The ref is to ensure that the rules are adhered to, your SCOTUS decides whether rules changes agree with the thinking of some men long dead, in this they have made some peverce decisions.




Yes, the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the constitution) and their oaths of office.
Does your Bill of rights legislate that there have to be more than one party in the game, or does it simply demand elections? George posited "popular committees" which I assume will be elected.

skuthorp
09-23-2012, 12:23 PM
"Does your Bill of rights legislate that there have to be more than one party in the game, or does it simply demand elections? George posited "popular committees" which I assume will be elected."

Our constitution does not recognise the existence of 'political parties' as a body, only individual members of parliament. Likewise the position of Prime Minister is not that of the leader of the governing party, but the individual MP that, at any given time, commands the support of the majority of the other MP's in the lower house. It can be argued that the evolved part structure not only gives stability to government, but that also it prevents the concept of representative democracy from working as was intended in that party discipline overrides the interests of any individual MP's electors.

George.
09-24-2012, 05:20 AM
Yes, but is there a parliament anywhere that is not dominated by political parties? I think they are pernicious, but natural.

skuthorp
09-24-2012, 07:14 AM
In my wilder ideas I advocate voting out every sitting MP for 3 elections in a row to break the party system.

George.
09-24-2012, 07:42 AM
About as likely as breaking the tribal system in a pre-state society...

John Smith
09-24-2012, 07:51 AM
OUr bill of rights does recognize the freedom to hold an opinion and voice it. This has been widely, and sadly, miscontrued. The example of speech not covered is always yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater when there is no fire.

Less often referenced is other forms of speech that are not legal under the first amendment; fraud, libel, and slander. "fraud" is simply defined as misrepresenting matters of fact for personal gain. In the world of politics, we manage not to apply this law, and lying becomes accepted free speech.

Some speech is offensive, but being offended is part of the price we pay for the right we have.

It's not always pleasant.

TomF
09-24-2012, 08:55 AM
Back to the original post ... yep, I think that there should be some limits on free speech. The kind of speech you're describing, George, seems to me to step over the line into sedition.

Constitutional democracies have various formulae for how to do constitutional change ... each of which are somehow trying to provide the kind of protection against Tyranny of the Majority which Montesquieu identified correctly as a danger of un-bounded democracies. I'm all for the freedom of speech for political parties to advocate constitutional change, but I disagree that they ought to have the free-speech right to counsel violent overthrow ... toppling of a functioning Constitutional democracy.

That said, there are places and times in which probably, violent overthrow of a regime is sometimes "legitimate," when it no longer rules by "consent of the governed." But I think it's important to recognize that this happens outside of the legitimate bounds of law, because the law itself has become illegitimate. The people's right to self-determination has ultimately been usurped, and is IMO the right which stands at the base of any legitimate system of government.

Dan McCosh
09-24-2012, 08:57 AM
I tend to think of the overthrow of democracy as a criminal act. The fact that you use democracy to accomplish it is not a mitigating factor. How about eliminating an elected government and appointing a manager? Been done here lots of times.

George.
09-24-2012, 09:03 AM
Huh? You mean like when your Supremes appointed W?

Dan McCosh
09-24-2012, 09:57 AM
Huh? You mean like when your Supremes appointed W? No. Like when the state replaces the elected government of a home-rule city with a political appointee, such has happened a half-dozen times or so here. Not quite like a military junta ruling the country, however.

George.
09-24-2012, 11:05 AM
Oh, yeas, like when Marion Barry was ousted for... well, never mind. I lived in DC back then.

Doesn't really count, as cities are not states - in other words, they have no political autonomy or any sort of sovereignty, but are completely subordinate to state and national constitutions. The will of the people of the state is still the supreme authority.

Paul Pless
09-24-2012, 11:05 AM
One party is using its time to call for the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeois government, the setting up of popular committees, etc.


How's this party feel about gringos?

George.
09-24-2012, 11:53 AM
Depends. They seem to like Venezuelans and Iranians, but rate Americans (A.K.A. Yankee Imperialists) just above Argentinians.