Arguments for Freedom of Speech (2016), by Sean Gabb

Arguments for Freedom of Speech:
A Talk Given at the London School of Economics
to the Hayek Society
on Tuesday the 16th February 2016

On Tuesday the 16th February 2016, Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, travelled to the London School of Economics, to talk to the Hayek Society about freedom of speech.

The London School of Economics is developing a scheme to police all speeches to student societies. This is partly to comply with the British Government's "anti-radicalisation" laws. The academic who sat in on this meeting was an entirely friendly presence. Even so, Dr Gabb decided at the last minute to give a speech of studied moderation.

He argued:

  • That freedom of speech means the right to publish without legal hindrance on anything that does not breach some private right or involve an act of treason – both of which conditions are to be tightly drawn and continuously monitored;
  • That our only confidence in the truth of propositions outside our immediate knowledge rests on a scholarly consensus, openly reached and openly maintained in the face of open challenge;
  • Without open consensus, knowledge becomes a matter of prudential faith, attended by some degree of private doubt;
  • That the exceptions made for the various kinds of "hate speech" are both arbitrary and inconsistent;
  • That anyone who wants universities to be a "safe space" for the sensitive is arguing not for a university as traditionally known in our civilisation, but for a nursery school.

There was a lively set of questions and answers.

© 2016 – 2017, seangabb.

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