The Corner

Re: I Don’t Buy It

Jonah says of my praise of America that: “It provides no criteria by which we should judge those voices.” In saying this, he is quite correct. If you want criteria by which to judge the truth of all these voices, you should look to-for starters–the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the works of Friedrich Hayek, the spirit of independent reason, and so on. Obviously, I wasn’t trying to outline, in one paragraph, my Comprehensive Definition of All Truth. But Jonah goes on to say: “It adds to diversity to have, say, Nazis and Stalinists in the national debate too, but frankly, I’d rather have a little less diversity if it meant not having them in it.” And on this, whether he’s right depends on the meaning of “national debate.” If national debate means the three or four most respected opinions in the country, the ones we spend most of our time discussing–then I certainly don’t want Nazism and Stalinism being part of that debate. But if national debate is taken more broadly, to include Flat Earthers, LaRouchies, pro-vivisection vegans, etc., then the brownshirted and redshirted guys belong in it. The alternative is to become like Canada or . . . . (gulp) France . . . where hate-speech laws are used against nonviolent people who just say things that aren’t judged politically correct by the lib mainstream. A very intelligent reader sent me an e-mail that sums it up: “The kooks, the a**holes, and the normals can all live side by side and contribute to the a civil society to the best of our abilities. Ideas are mocked, embraced, or ignored–but not suppressed! . . . Neither you nor Whitman would approve of the Nazis’ or Stalinists’ ideas. But I think you and Whitman both would agree that the poverty of their ideas would, in a free society, be laughed out of the marketplace of ideas. Free people do not need ot suppress bad thoughts. [We mustn’t] confuse celebrating the existence of the mosaic of ideas with approval of every idea equally.” Here endeth the lesson; amen.

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