And impeach the president: The political and economic blog of a strict constitutionalist.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Can a strict constitutionalist really be in favor of limiting free speech?

So this is something that may seem like a shock. Can a strict constitutionalist, like me, really be in favor of restricting free speech?

What would happen if you had truly unrestricted free speech and freedom of the press?

  1. The 7 words decision would be overturned.
  2. Prisoners would be allowed to publish papers telling the world about their situation.
  3. Prisons would not be able to restrict access to computers, or computer discussion forms; in fact, it could be argued that they would be required to provide computer access for prisoners to write blogs or participate in discussions about the treatment of prisoners.
  4. 6-12 year olds, in elementary school, would have the right to speak out against their teachers, or engage in "learning strikes".
  5. Publication of books, or games, or computer programs, etc, to teach law breaking would be unrestricted --

    • States could not restrict the teaching of Lock Picking, but anyone could provide very realistic training tools, games, online sites, etc, such that anyone could be expected to be able to pick most consumer locks and enter any residence
    • Books on how to kill a person would be legal
    • Posting of advertisements seeking hitmen, or offering hitman services, would be legal.
    • NB: This doesn't mean the act of killing would be illegal, but the advertisement would be just more freedom of the press.
Do I think that this is a good thing? 

Interestingly enough, while a book on how to kill someone may be bannable, a program on how to break into a computer program is not only not bannable, but a standard tool for testing your computer system for basic security leaks. At least, until you run it at work -- then you can be convicted of three felony counts. That's not a lie -- a computer admin, newly hired, was sued by the company he worked for, after running COPS on the system to test it for security issues.

The book on killing someone? While I don't have the case to cite, this happened while I was growing up, and was reported in the Los Angeles times.

Lock picking? We locked ourselves out of a building. Standard $10 doorlock. Had to get a professional lockpick out. I wanted to watch him, to learn how to do this myself; he told me that state law prohibited him from letting me watch.

So do we have freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of teaching today?

To a larger degree than any other country, yes.
Absolute? No.

Should this be absolute? I'll leave that as an open question.

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