|August 29, 2002||Posted by Fred Foldvary under Archive, Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Fred Foldvary’s Editorial
Don’t Do It, Don’t Say It, Don’t Think It
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
It is a violation of our human natural rights to prohibit us from doing things which do not harm others. It compounds the violation when government prohibits us from even talking about the prohibition. We expect this in totalitarian dictatorships, but increasingly in “democracies” victimless crimes are being extended to making it illegal to even talk about these laws and crimes.
The US State of Arkansas has been a pioneer of prohibiting speech about victimless crimes. Its law 5-68-204 on nudism makes it unlawful for any person or organization to “advocate, demonstrate, or promote nudism.” It is not just illegal to be naked in Arkansas, but it is illegal, and punishable for up to six months in prison, for anyone to speak or write in favor of nudism. The US First Amendment is null and void in Arkansas. See Arkansas speech prohibition.
Now the same idea is being applied to drugs. Not only will certain drugs be illegal, but it will be illegal to speak against this prohibition or even talk about the drugs at all. Bills to prohibit speech about illegal drugs have been introduced both in the House and the Senate of the US Congress.
For example, the Ecstasy Proliferation Act of 2000 would prohibit online discussions of this drug.
Most of these bills technically refer to teaching or explaining or providing information about the making, purchase, or use of such drugs. But such speech is Constitutionally protected, and such a law can easily be interpreted to prohibit talking about medical marijuana that is permitted by State laws but prohibited by federal law, or to stifle articles about drugs in general.
The USA is not alone in this; indeed, the United Nations is promoting the prohibition of speech about illegal activity. In 1988 the United States signed the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Its Article 3 requires signatory countries to outlaw inducing others to use the prohibited substances. The UN International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has promoted the idea of curbing speech about drugs in the public media.
The INCB stated that “freedom of expression cannot remain unrestricted when it conflicts with other essential values and rights.” See Drug Speech .
The next step government would take is to ban and penalize articles on the Web. An editorial like this one could become prohibited, as it probably would be in Arkansas already. Speaking against prohibition could be interpreted, however falsely, as promotion.
The US and State Constitutional protections on free speech are becoming meaningless. Any speech can be prohibited as conflicting with “values” such as prohibiting drugs or nakedness. One of the problems is that the words “freedom” and “free” have not been defined in the Constitutions. The founders of the United States of America knew what freedom was, but they failed to foresee that two hundred years later, freedom means the legal ability to do whatever government thinks is proper to do.
This is what individual freedom really means: the absence of any legal restriction on acts which do not directly and coercively harm others. In a truly free society, any action that is peaceful and honest should not be prohibited. Talking about drugs does not by itself harm anyone. We need a definition of freedom in our Constitutions. We also need to educate ourselves about what freedom means. Our coins in the USA are inscribed “Liberty” but as Henry George said in Progress and Poverty long ago,
- “We honor Liberty in name and in form. We set up her statues and sound her praises. But we have not fully trusted her. And with our growth so grow her demands. She will have no half service!”
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Copyright 2000 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.