The New York Times has an interesting piece today on the circus in British Columbia last week and how unique the United States' protection of speech is in the western world. This got me thinking about how we got where we are today, with freedom of speech considered an "American concept" and many in America asking whether or not we are too free. This whole controversy cannot be completely understood if we only look at it from the perspective of speech. Speech itself must be understood as but one of a group of what Enlightenment thinkers liked to call Natural Rights. I believe that history is beginning to bear out that these rights cannot exist independently of one another. It is all or nothing.
I don't walk around wearing swastikas or denying the Holocaust, and I openly discriminate against those that do. They are not allowed in my house or place of business. Discrimination is not a bad thing, unless it is done by the government. Citizens in a free society should be allowed to reach conclusions on their own and let these conclusions guide their actions as long as they cause no one else direct harm. This is how we treat adults. Your words and actions are judged by other adults and they draw their own conclusions about you. However, many western democracies no longer see their citizens as adults. They cannot provide their own Health Care, the government must do it. They can't plan for their own retirement, the government must do it. They can't afford to provide themselves with the basic needs of life, the government must do it. They cannot be trusted to say what they wish in public, the government must regulate it. This is the natural conclusion of the Nanny State. It has taken some time, but it is finally apparent that totalitarianism isn't the exception in a Nanny or Welfare State, it is the rule. You are not an adult, you are a child. The State is your legal guardian. It will be gentle when it can, stern when it must. You are not to hurt the other children's feelings.
This is the way its playing out in much of the western world. I don't think we should be surprised. When you make the State your parent, don't be shocked when it treats you as a child. America hasn't totally descended into the loving embrace of the State yet. The First Amendment has been settled as an ironclad protection of all but the most directly threatening speech since after the Second World War, but I cannot emphasize enough that it has not always been this way. Americans must be ever vigilant or thus we fall into the Statist temptation. It must be clearly understood that the natural rights of man are not to be individually analyzed as neccessary or not. They must exist as a package, a whole. When just one is disregarded, the rest are on borrowed time. Economic freedom is eternally linked to all other freedoms, and is most always the first to go. Once you are dependent on the State to "make a living", the State will eventually control how you live. America must learn from Europe and Canadians must pray its not too late.