Friday, January 4, 2013

Good counsel

One of my favorite Supreme Court opinions is the concurrence of Justice Brandeis in Whitney v. California, an important free speech case from 1927. My favorite paragraph from that opinion is what I believe to be one of the finest explanations of and justifications for the freedom speech that has even been penned.  Justice Brandeis wrote:

Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that, in its government, the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end, and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness, and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that, without free speech and assembly, discussion would be futile; that, with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government. They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies, and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law -- the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.
274 U.S. 357, 375-76 (1927).  I have seen over the last few years a growing influence of hate in our American society, as well as the way in which that hate menaces stable government, and there are far too many evil counsels and far too few good ones to remedy them.  My hope, in some small way, is to fall into the latter category.  This blog takes its name from what I hope it will be.

No comments:

Post a Comment