The Gross National Debt

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Free speech and forcing the government

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
The First Amendment, free speech, includes the right to keep your damfool mouf shut. It also prevents government (not private business) from making you keep your damfool mouf shut.

Clear enough.

But. Can a private citizen force the government to say something?

You may now state, "Say what, Baker?"

At issue are vanity license plates. These are vehicle tags that sometimes have witting statements. My taxidermist has one "Strap1On." I'll let you wonder what he means by that.

Governments have long denied and approved various vanity license plates. Profanity is routinely shot down. Vulgarity, well, standards vary. How about offensive?

Offensive to whom? Why? How?

SCOTUS is taking this one up. At issue is a Confederate License Plate too offensive? In Georgia, it;s not. You can buy a license plate with a Sons of Confederate Veterans emblem. The Sons are a non-racial group, even yankees welcome, which supports Southern Heritage.

The right to be offended clobbers the right to not be offended, as it should be.

However, this case does not turn on offense. It is a very real question of how much can we force government to say. A license plate, issued by the government, is a statement by government. Can private citizens force government to say anything?

Look at this another way. Government is supposed to be by, for and of ALL of us. Government is supposed to be us. You. Me. The guy behind you who just ducked around the corner so you can't see him when you look back. Racists. Right to Life and Right to Choose. Atheists. Deists. Anarchists. Socialists. Even your weird cousin.

In a sense, when government says something, we all say it.

So, can one person force government to say something? Can one person force the rest of us to say something? Can the rest of us tell that one person to shut up and make that stick? Do we have to listen to him? Does he have to listen to us?

I say let 'er rip. When one voice is silenced, we are all diminished.

No comments:

Post a Comment