Defamation Laws and the Mythical “Right to Freedom of Speech”

November 11, 2017 by · Comments Off on Defamation Laws and the Mythical “Right to Freedom of Speech” 

2017-11-11-word-gunDespite loose talk to the contrary, there is no moral “right of free speech”. It is only when one sets up a “right” of “free speech” that one then has to somehow explain how defamation laws – which involve making a liar pay damages to a person about whom he has told a lie – are not a violation of the “right of free speech”. Typically, the explanation ends up involving another made-up “right” that must be “balanced” against the “right” of “free speech”, or that somehow constitutes a exception to the “right of free speech”. The result of such explanations, inevitably, is that someone asserts that the “right” of “free speech” is “not absolute”. This devolves further into a greater, and more harmful generalization: that “rights are not absolute”. The end game is something akin to s. 1 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society“. In other words, one ends up with constitutional laws that say you have rights, but that they’re not absolute. More succinctly: that you have no rights at all.

It therefore comes to me as a disappointment that none other than the Director of Legal Studies at the Ayn Rand Institute, Steve Simpson (who is usually a great advocate of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism) has defended defamation laws by asserting that one has a “right” to the value of one’s own reputation: Read more