A Condensed Version of: For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto
by Murray N. Rothbard
Compiled and Edited by Dr. Jimmy T. (Gunny) LaBaume
Personal Liberty: Feedom of Speech
“Freedom of speech” cannot be upheld as an absolute except under the rights of property. Under that condition, the freedom to say, print, and sell any utterance is an absolute right. But there are fuzzy areas, for example, “incitement to riot.” “Incitement” can only be a crime if we deny every man’s freedom of will and of choice. Although it might be immoral to advocate a riot, if all men are endowed with free will, then advocacy should not be subject to legal penalty. Also, if advocacy should never be a crime, then neither should “conspiracy to advocate” because “conspiring” (agreeing) to do something should never be more illegal than the act itself.
Another difficult area of the law is libel and slander. Essentially, this law holds that someone has a “property right” in his own reputation. But, since someone’s “reputation” is strictly a function of the subjective feelings and attitudes held by other people, it cannot be “owned” by him. So, since no one can “own” the mind and attitude of another, speech attacking someone should not be legally restricted or penalized. Once again, it may be immoral to level false charges against someone, but moral and the legal are two different things.
If there were no laws of libel or slander, people would be less willing to give credit to charges made by others. As it is now is contrary to that—if someone is charged with a misdeed, the general reaction is to believe it since, if the charge is false, “Why doesn’t he sue for libel?” Furthermore, the law discriminates against the poor who are not able to afford a costly libel suit In this same vein, wealthy people use the libel laws as a club against the poorer which serves to restrict legitimate charges under the threat of being sued.
The boycott is another action that should be free of restriction. Boycott is the use of the right of speech to encourage other people to stop buying someone’s product. A boycott might be unfortunate for the producers of the product in question, but again, this is well within the realm of free speech and private property rights.
Freedom of speech implies freedom of assembly. But, picketing and demonstrations become more complex when streets are involved. In the first place, picketing is always illegitimate when used to block access to a private building or threaten violence. In the same way, sit-ins are an invasion of private property. But even “peaceful picketing” is not clearly legitimate when the streets are involved. Who decides how the streets should be used? The problem is that they are owned by government, which lacks any criterion for allocating their use. Any decision it makes will be arbitrary. No matter which way the government decides some group of taxpayers will be injured. So, government ownership of the streets makes the problem insoluble.
Whoever owns a resource will decide on how that resource is to be used. If the streets were privately owned, the owner would decide whether to rent his street for demonstrations or keep it clear for traffic, whom to rent it to, and what price to charge. So, it is clear that this is not a “freedom of speech or assembly” question. It is a question of property rights.
To be continued:
The Essence of Liberty Volume I: Liberty and History chronicles the rise and fall of the noble experiment with constitutionally limited government. It features the ideas and opinions of some of the world’s foremost contemporary constitutional scholars. This is history that you were not taught at the mandatory government propaganda camps otherwise known as “public schools.” You will gain a clear understanding of how America’s decline and decay is really nothing new and how it began almost immediately with the constitution. Available in both paperback and Kindle versions.
You might be interested in the other two volumes of this three volume set: The Essence of Liberty Volume II: The Economics of Liberty and The Essence of Liberty Volume III: Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic.