Freedom of Speech and Private Property
By David Henderson
In the last few days, I’ve seen a number of discussions, mainly on Facebook, in which even some libertarians have claimed that two people’s free speech rights were violated in two recent events. I was thinking about writing about it, but then I found that Casey Given has already done so. His article is titled “Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer remind us what free speech is and isn’t.” Casey nails it.
The two events I’m writing about are white nationalist Richard Spencer showing up at a bar in a hotel where a libertarian conference, the International Students for Liberty Conference (ISFLC), was held and the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) disinviting speaker Milo Yiannopoulos from its annual conference.
The reaction to both events have [sic] generated predictably lazy outcries that the controversial speakers’ “free speech rights” have been violated. Had they been disinvited or removed from a public university, perhaps the outrage mob would have a point. But it’s important for libertarians and conservatives to also recognize private property rights when discussing such flare-ups.
Just as Spencer has the right to discuss his despicable views at a bar, so did the ISFLC conference-goers have the right to confront him about them. In matters of private property, it’s up to the business owners to decide who gets to stay or leave. In this instance, they decided to disperse the crowd and eject Spencer.
From the extensive video I watched on line, it looked to me as if the bar manager ejected everybody. That’s how the Students for Liberty, organizers of the conference, saw it also. Funny how profit-maximizing businesses don’t like people arguing and raising their voices when other customers are there simply to drink and socialize.
I do want to challenge one thing Casey Given says:
Nobody’s rights were violated. Indeed, given Spencer’s history as the victim of a physical attack, the ISFLC crowd should be commended for respecting the non-aggression principle.
He’s right that nobody’s rights were violated. That’s the really good news. I think Casey overstates, though, in commending the crowd for not physically attacking him. Of course, it’s good that they didn’t. But that hardly deserves a commendation.