A Libertarian Defense of Blacklisting at The Nation
By Bryan Caplan
Bill Maher spent a significant portion of last Friday’s Real Time
defending Rush Limbaugh. Well, not defending the man, whom he calls
repulsive. And not defending Rush’s statements over the last few weeks,
which he vehemently objected to on both political and rhetorical
grounds. But Maher defended Rush’s right to say those things, invoking
free speech and the ACLU, and in the process missed the point
[V]iolating Rush’s First Amendment rights would require state action.
Rush has not been jailed for his views, nor has anyone even whispered a
suggestion to that effect. There have been no calls for his radio
transmitter to be jammed. No one is even demanding he be fined, which
might be possible under the FCC’s arcane and arbitrary decency laws.
Instead, what his critics are doing is exercising one of their own
fundamental American rights, their right as consumers to frequent the
businesses they choose.
The power of the pocketbook has the wonderful potential to
crowd-source our cultural norms. The last two weeks have shown just how
far outside of our cultural norms Rush resides.
That does not mean he should shut up. He should keep on speaking his
beliefs. The First Amendment guarantees him the right to say whatever he
likes. It does not guarantee him the right to be paid to say it.
I wonder how she’d react to my isomorphic defense of Hollywood’s blacklisting of Communists and Communist sympathizers:
A free society does not use the government to punish “thought criminals.”
not, however, mean that free people had no acceptable way to express their
disapproval for Stalin’s apologists. One route, of course, was to
take up the pen in defense of the victims of Stalinism. A second – and
equally legitimate – course was to exercise one’s freedom to not
associate with Communists. Not to befriend them, buy their magazines, or
hire them – and to urge other people to do the same. In short, to blacklist
them. Far from being a violation of anyone’s freedom, the blacklist is
merely an exercise of the freedom of association, just as a peaceful
strike is an exercise of the freedom of association.
…Yes, Communists have
the right to defend the extermination of the kulaks, just as
Nazis have the right to alternately defend and deny the Holocaust.
This does not turn them into heroes. True, Communists posed little threat
to national security, just as Nazis are unlikely to seize power anytime soon.
This does not mean that someone is paranoid if they ostracize them –
personally, socially, and/or economically – and encourage others to do the
same. Everyone is entitled to your tolerance, but not everyone is entitled
to your respect – or your business.