I keep hearing this argument from liberals that freedom of speech is not absolute, and has definite limits trangressing which, they believe, gives the state the right to jail you for hate speech. What is the libertarian defense of freedom of speech as an absolute right? More particularly, how does libertarianism defend hate speech?
It depends upon exactly who you talk to, but most libertarians around here will argue that freedom of speech is guaranteed by the process of self ownership. If I own my body, and I own my actions, then so long as I don't use force against others and their property, then I can do anything that I want and others have no right to control me.
So usually for libertarians it comes down to the autonomy and rights of an individual. Why is it that you should control what I can and cannot say? This is especially true when we consider the true subjectivity of the meaning of language, what constitutes hate speech, or speech which should be prohibited entirely depends upon the individual you're talking to.
Most libertarians would agree, that you are free to talk anything on your own private property. However, I doubt anyone believes in punishing for "hate speech" on these forums... Point is, that iff I don't like what other person is talking on my property, I can legally ask him to leave, but I am in not way allowed to use violence against him (except in a ways if he ignores my requests and then I have to use force to remove him). Again, just like all social issues, it has its grey areas, but the core is that there is no freedom of speech as such, only property rights.
(english is not my native language, sorry for grammar.)
A solid answer is Rothbard's chapter "Human Rights as Property Rights" in The Ethics of Liberty. His answer is that rights for humans are property rights. Thus, "In fact, there are no human rights that are separable from property rights."
He discusses the "freedom of speech" extensively in that chapter, in fact, that's how he begins the chapter:
Take, for example, the "human right" of free speech. Freedom
of speech is supposed to mean the right of everyone to say
whatever he likes. But the neglected question is: Where? Where
does a man have this right? He certainly does not have it on
property on which he is trespassing. In short, he has this right
only either on his own property or on the property of someone
who has agreed, as a gift or in a rental contract, to allow him
on the premises. In fact, then, there is no such thing as a
separate "right to free speech"; there is only a man's property
right: the right to do as he wills with his own or to make
voluntary agreements with other property owner.
I have not heard liberals want to jail people for hate speech. If some say that, then they are likely a fringe group.
It’s funny that liberals tend to use speech and, therefore, presuppose its validity in order to even argue. Rothbard and Hoppe are right: human rights can be thought of as a specific realm of property rights, I guess, and Hoppe proves that any anti-libertarian stance is inherently contradictory as, to argue against property rights, one must presuppose the validity of property rights and the libertarian principle of conflict avoidance (the NAP) in order to make any argument at all.
The central tenant of libertarianism, at least of the Austrian (Rothbardian) variety, is the legitimacy of private property rights. The right to self-ownership starts it off: I own myself. Any attempt on my part to claim this not to be so would be inherently contradictory by my actions of argument: I must necessarily presuppose property rights (the right to exclusive control) in myself as I control my actions, including speech (how else could this be argued otherwise?). Further, as a person has the right to use the scarce means of his body for his ends, he likewise has the right to use the scarce means of those natural resources which are unowned by anyone- those resources with which he is the first to mix his labor, a la Locke; since these resources are unowned when found, one must conclude that no one has any places any value on them in the first place. So man has natural property rights in himself and in those resources that he first obtains from nature and puts to use (intertwined in this is the prior-later distinction: what right does, for example, an English baby to be born in the future have on the unowned resources first claimed by an American man? No justification exists and, in order to even argue the point, the arguer would have to wait to gain consent to the world’s population if the arguer is consistent). Man may also destroy, exchange, rent his property as he sees fit and may, therefore, exchange property rights in goods. He may do whatever with property insofar as he does not violate the property rights of others (e.g. he may not steal, murder, rape, etc.).
Regarding hate speech: Speech is a function of the scarce means of one's body. In order to use one's body in this manner, one need only to use his own body and have a space (as in ground space) from which he may articulate his message. Arguments and speech don't float around, per se, but they must be communicated somehow. If I wanted to give a "hate speech," I must have property rights in the medium with which I will communicate this speech: I could rent space from the owner of the local grocery store who voluntarily allows me to use his space or I may use my own front lawn. Insofar as I have the rights to the property of others to do so, I may give a hate speech as is consistent with libertarian property rights theory. This also applies for the written word for the exact same reasons. The content of the speech may have anti-libertarian elements in it, but the action of speaking is justifiable and a central libertarian presupposition of argumentation.
If you’re interested further, as I recognize that I am not the best one to make this argument, I’d recommend reading Hoppe, as well as Rothbard's work here and here.
If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH
Wheylous:I have not heard liberals want to jail people for hate speech. If some say that, then they are likely a fringe group.
Have a look here.
faber est suae quisque fortunae
Perhaps I should have confined my statement to American liberals.
You might also want to google Ake Green, Andrew Bolt, Canadian Human Rights Commission, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, Ezra Levant, Geert Wilders, Richard Warman or, for that matter, French Armenian genocide.
Gottfried, in particular, is excellent on this subject.
You should have the right to speak your mind without fear of some kind of assault. People also have the right to restrict certain things as a condition of allowing you on their property. If you speak incessently at a movie theater, they have the right to remove you since they own the place. Getting you to leave is not a violation of your free speech. The other part comes into play where you may be encouraging violence against a peaceful person. This I think could amount to a threat. But what constitutes modern "hate speech" tends to be things not directly related to violence. I think there was a case a couple years ago with somebody flushing a Koran down the toilet and that this person was actually arrested for hate speech. It is a fine line, but in our statist mentality, it is easily abused to anything that can remotely seem offensive. They use it as a tool to shut down debate, so that practice is definitely not libertarian.