The end of Free Speech

Gabriela Calderon de Burgos wrote an article at CATO regarding the end of free speech in Ecuador.  El Universo (The Universe) newspaper in Quito had a mostly blank page for its cover today.  The only thing on it was a quote from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged:

When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion–when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing–when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors–when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed.

Why is this on the front of El Universo?  Because the newspaper, its editor, and other contributors were sued in criminal court by the leftist president of the country for libel.  The newspaper’s directors and editor will spend 3 years in jail. Fines of $30 million were ordered, as well as $10 million to be given to Ecuador’s president.

Oh, this is the fifth judge on the court since February.  He became judge on Monday, and issued the order just minutes before his week long term ended!

We now see that liberal efforts in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador is shutting down free speech and imprisoning innocent people that oppose tyranny.

How long before we see such actions in the free world that is becoming less free every day due to government expansion into every inch of our own lives?  Just look at how the War on Terrorism and the Great Recession have already reduced our freedoms.  Travel is limited, unless you consent to being molested by TSA. Government bails out big banks, unions and corporations, while allowing the regular folk to lose their homes.  Government is firing corporate executives.  Government is telling us we cannot drill for oil and reduce our dependence on terrorist supported nations.  Government supports teacher’s unions instead of children in the war on education.  And government has brought us into a multi-trillion dollar deficit and then attacks those who would seek the hard but real answers to fix the problem.

Government does not desire us to be free.  It allows us to be nominally free, as long as we are supportive of their abuses.

Truly, the Book of Mormon’s warning that when the wicked rule they support their wicked allies, while the innocent get screwed is happening in our day.

While I’m not a big Ayn Rand fan, she was correct in this.

How soon before the Feds tell us we cannot speak out against our government and its policies?

Cato Article

21 thoughts on “The end of Free Speech

  1. Any information regarding the libel suit? Is it justified or not? Or do we care?

  2. It’s Ecuador and the plaintiff is a politician. Does that answer the question is it justified to some degree?

  3. Mark N, there is more information on the Cato link Rame provided. If you read Spanish, you can read the original editorial. It is your standard sarcastic bombastic condemnation of a president, the type of thing you would read every day in thousands of newspapers in this country. The president is a public figure, so it would be practically impossible to libel him. I don’t think any of us would know if the editorial’s claims are accurate or not without a lot of research. But I think it is safe to say that, given a public figure is involved, there is no libel by our standards.

    So, Correa is a scumbag dictator wannabe in the mold of Chavez. On this we probably should all agree.

    But Latin America has a long, long, long history of scumbag dictator wannabes going back for nearly 200 years since independence from Spain and Portugal. Correa is pretty much in the middle of that long list in terms of general badness.

    Is it bad that Correa and other dictator wannabes in Latin America are doing this? Yes. But they have been persecuting political opponents all over Latin America for nearly 200 years now (and the Spaniards and Portuguese certainly did it before then). So, I do think it is a bit overwrought to see this particular incident as the end of the world.

    Still, there are some worrisome trends in our own country, many of which are cited by Rame. When we look back at this time 20 years from now, we will be ashamed we didn’t stand up to the TSA and didn’t condemn the wars we are waging and weren’t more concerned about the debt we are incurring as a nation. If that is Rame’s point, I will agree with him.

  4. Without having read the Cato article, I’m willing to believe that free speech, as we understand it here, is not happening there. I’m not sure I’m yet ready to believe, however, that as goes Ecuador, so goes the USA. This doesn’t mean, either, that I’m blind to the abuses that are already taking place here. The most disturbing recent (or not-so-recent) events for me are the involvement of BYU-educated people with the legal justification of torture. That I don’t think I will ever understand.

  5. My point is, and I think Geoff hits on a key part of it, is that as a government gets more and more powerful, the people lose their freedoms. Government justifies itself, and while now it ignores the massive complaints given towards the TSA, the day could come where they arrest people who refuse to be groped, etc.

    It doesn’t come overnight. We have had the Homeland Security Dept and Patriot Act for almost a decade, and it just gets bigger and more imposing. How many people think the IRS is a wonderful organization? And after the many Congressional hearings against it over the years, has it really improved any?

    While our courts will protect free speech right now, how long before the courts are stacked by someone who believes government gives rights, rather than that they are inherent?

    How easy is it to start a company today? If you are in California, not very easy. That’s why so many businesses are moving away from there (Amazon.com, for instance) and opening up for business in Texas.

    But when it comes to the Feds, businesses can only follow the rules or move overseas. Oh wait, they ARE moving overseas.

    You can either have freedom or big government, but it is not easy to have both at the same time.

  6. We know that democracy is not the best possible government system, only best in absence of righteousness. Is it any surprise that powerful positions will attract those who seek power and those with power will seek more of it? Even a democracy . . . even a bipartisan democracy . . . will eventually struggle with this issue. ANY government without righteousness will.

    From what I understand (and I admit that my knowledge of U.S. History isn’t as thorough as some) the bipartisan model was created with the belief that the parties themselves would be fluid, changing. But the two main parties have been ensconced for generations. And, despite pretending to back different things, they are not all that different. The people running under the different banners still go to the same parties, live in the same neighborhoods, make similar wages. And they don’t perform all THAT differently once in office, if you put aside the banner waving and rivalries. To them (painting with a broad brush), it’s about power, not ideals. It’s about which shirt will get you the most power. And no matter what government you have, to varying degrees power comes from the consent of the governed. Particularly in a government like ours.

    TSA can only do what they do because we as a majority consent to it. By saying “government” does something, what you really mean is WE are doing it. Or, at least, allowing it to happen.

  7. Yeah I am all mixed up about Book of Mormon people overcoming their enemies by inducing drunkeness. And old Captain Moroni seems like a pretty autocratic guy when he cleans up the king-men. Reminds me a bit of Pinochet.

  8. Al – I think conflict and “Falls” of various sorts are inevitable. Even in the war in heaven those who ultimately would get along with the program were eventually cast out. I’m sure there was a lot of persuading going on, but no one seemed able to live and let live in that case. Bring your will into line with Gods or be cast out of his kingdom seems the message. I’m describing it a lot harsher than it is, and I certainly don’t use that as a proscription for any action in the here and now. And I realized those who were cast out rebelled, so perhaps they precipitated the casting out. But there doesn’t appear to be room for, “well let’s just agree to disagree” in the plan of salvation.

  9. I think the concept isn’t in temporary efforts of power, such as Moroni exhibited, but in those who seek to permanently retain it. Moroni’s epistle to Pahoran notes that he seeks to pull down power, not build it up. And note what he did once the war was over: he gave up his power and went home. Very different than what Satan sought to do.

    He didn’t just say, “let’s agree to disagree” but sought to be God and impose his own will, reducing man’s agency to nothing. God does not force us to stay with him in his presence. He offers other options in other kingdoms, both of glory and without any glory. We choose our own kingdom by how we live and choose.

    That sometimes there must be great power wielded, especially during war, makes it even more important for those wielding it to step down immediately afterward. George Washington did this. The French-Indian war ended and he went home. The Continental Congress wrote the Declaration of Independence, and he went home. He fought the war of Independence, and then went home. He was begged to be president, served two terms, then went home.

    Very different than how politicians today work.

  10. The problem is how do you cajole those into government who would be best suited for the positions? Short of something like a lotto, those who would want and be available for office are the exact ones you don’t want.

    And then how would you screen for capability without introducing bias?

  11. William F. Buckley noted he would trust randomly picking people out of the phone book to serve in Congress than the methodologies we have and are using today.

    I think a solution would be to have term limits for Congress. 2 terms for the House, 1 term for the Senate. We force them to go home before they can be tainted too much. Allow fresh blood to change and improve the system by force, if they will not step down on their own.

    Some say we need professional politicians. I say that professional politicians, such as Dodd, Reid, Pelosi, and many on the right as well, have caused the economic and other crises we are in right now. Why keep those who are ruining the nation, harming us and our grandchildren, etc?

    Force them out by not giving them another term!

    What about the few good guys that are in office? There are many others around to replace them with. If not, then we are truly in trouble.

  12. Short of something like a lotto, those who would want and be available for office are the exact ones you don’t want.

    Very true, so why not a lottery? We think random citizens are competent to sentence fellow Americans to prison terms and even to death, so why not competent to run things?

  13. I think we would at least have to ensure those picked by lottery are:
    1. not felons
    2. literate
    3. have a basic understanding of the Constitution, or are willing to learn it
    4. have not been on welfare or unemployment for more than 1 year, so that they do not create a larger welfare state

    Beyond that, I think anyone is eligible

  14. If you’re going to disallow the poor from serving in government, then it should be equally obvious that the super-rich shouldn’t be allowed to serve either. Or do we assume (in the face of tons of evidence to the contrary) that the rich don’t write the laws to benefit themselves?

  15. Mark N,

    The key is to shrink federal government and get them out of interfering and influencing our lives. People on long term welfare are already influenced by a weekly check from the feds.

    Remember, we are talking about selecting people from a lottery, not just having Donald Trump toss his hat in the ring. If chosen by a lottery, a super rich person who has not actively sought the presidency and who is not under a pile of government bureaucracy would hopefully not seek to benefit himself, but continue to keep government out of the way. After all, he is president for only a short period. The following president can undo all he’s done and impose penalties if there is an attempt by one to use unfair advantage.

  16. I don’t think it should be just presidents, either. I think Congress would benefit from some kind of lottery system. The problem is having professional politicians. But again, how do you ensure they are familiar with law or educated enough to make good decisions without introducing bias?

  17. Simple, you give them a small document that outlines what their responsibilities are. We could call this small document the US Constitution!

    Basically, if it isn’t clearly in their purview to do it, the States should handle it. Things for the States would include retirement plans like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, unemployment, education, most highways and bridges, building museums, EPA, TSA, who can marry, most environment issues, most immigration issues, etc, etc, etc….

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