Ludwig von Mises Institute

Freedom of speech

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Freedom of speech is liberty to express oneself as one chooses. A principle fundamental to the modern conception of a constitutional republic is that while the majority has the right to rule, the individual still has the right to express dissent. Otherwise, the status quo becomes locked into place because there is no way to introduce dissident ideas and persuade others to support them. Democracy destroys itself if collectivists do not exercise restraint; Ludwig von Mises writes, "In their eyes majorities are always right simply because they have the power to crush any opposition; majority rule is the dictatorial rule of the most numerous party, and the ruling majority is not bound to restrain itself in the exercise of its power and in the conduct of political affairs. As soon as a faction has succeeded in winning the support of the majority of citizens and thereby attained control of the government machine, it is free to deny to the minority all those democratic rights by means of which it itself has previously carried on its own struggle for supremacy."[1]

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the U.S. Congress from making any law abridging freedom of speech. In practice, there are many restrictions on speech, such as the laws against obscenity and criminal incitement, enticement, and so on.

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