My Right To Offend You


“Liberty, if it means anything at all, is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear.”

There is one ideal that unites all those who love liberty, a concept that also unites the free world – the right to speak freely.

Freedom of speech is not the right to say anything to anyone. There are caveats. These include inciting violence (Sir Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain is perfectly entitled to his opinion that homosexuality is ‘not acceptable’ but he would not be entitled to incite physical attacks on gays – not that he does, of course). Defamation, slander and libel are illiberal (i cannot accuse someone of being a drug dealer without firm evidence) and inciting a riot (i cannot shout fire in a crowded theatre) is also a no-no. Free speech is also subordinate to private property rights. For instance, commenters here who shout ‘you’re a f***ing idiot’ will see their comments deleted.

That said, the act of ‘causing offence’ is most definitely not an exception. As Orwell wrote over 60 years ago, it is the essence of free speech.

Every so often, our belief in free speech is tested. Geert Wilder’s latest movie, Fitna, is such a test. Let’s see how the world fared;


i) Australia ‘In Australia, we believe in the right to freedom of expression, but we don’t believe in that right to incite racial hatred.’

Stephen Smith, Australia’s Foreign Minister

ii) The EU ‘The European Union and its member states apply the principle of the freedom of speech which is part of our values and traditions. However, it should be exercised in a spirit of respect for religious and other beliefs and convictions.’

Slovenia, rotating head of the EU

iii) The UN –  ‘There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence. The right of free expression is not at stake here.’

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon

‘They should offer strong protective measures to all forms of freedom of expression, while at the same time enacting appropriate restrictions, as necessary, to protect the rights of others.’

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour

iv) Singapore‘Freedom of expression does not give anyone the licence to insult another’s religion or race.’

Singapore’s deputy prime minister, Wong Kan Seng

v) Egypt ‘Western countries must adopt laws which criminalise any offence … against religious symbols, just like flagrant violations of human rights and forms of racism.’

Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit

vi) Indonesia‘We are of the view that the film has a racist flavour and is an insult to Islam, hidden under the cover of freedom of expression.’

Foreign Ministry spokesperson

vii) Network Solutions‘In this situation, with the dialogue that’s happening throughout the world, we’ve made the choice to suspend the site.’

Susan Wade, spokeswoman for Network Solutions.

viii) The Dutch government – ‘It would be irresponsible to broadcast this film. That’s because Dutch companies, Dutch soldiers and Dutch residents could and will be in danger.’

Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen on why bullying works


i)  Malaysia‘Muslims should boycott Dutch products over Fitna.’

Former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir, airing a legitimate response.  

ii) Google – for hosting the film.


i) LiveLeak‘We stood for what we believe in, the ability to be heard, but in the end the price was too high’.

ii) Reason‘That Wilders possesses extremist views, that his interpretation of Islam is both reductive and puerile, is of no particular relevance in this case, unless one subscribes to the view that there exists an arbitrary boundary between right to free speech and freedom from offense’

iii) Peter Hoekstra ‘These liberties have been won through centuries of debate, conflict and bloodshed. Radical jihadists want to sacrifice all we have learned by returning to a primitive and intolerant world. While modern society invites such radicals to peacefully exercise their faith, we cannot and will not sacrifice our fundamental freedoms.’

Mr. Hoekstra, ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

iv) The Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt ‘And yet there is no denying a strand in Islam today that is violent, uncompromising and a threat to the liberal societies of the West – societies that seem more reluctant than ever to defend their most fundamental values.’

In case you think freedom of speech is a relatively recent, Anglophile phenomenon, let’s leave the last word to Socrates,

“The irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and provocative have a right to be heard.”


109 thoughts on “My Right To Offend You

  1. LiveLeak posted the movie long enough for the movie to be distributed to a multitude of sources and websites and it then stepped out of the game and allowed diffused publication via multiple sources to carry the can. Clever tactics and one that the Internet is most suited to.

    Freedom of speech is not the right to say anything to anyone. There are caveats. These include inciting violence (Sir Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain is perfectly entitled to his opinion that homosexuality is ‘not acceptable’ but he would not be entitled to incite physical attacks on gays – not that he does, of course). Defamation, slander and libel are illiberal (i cannot accuse someone of being a drug dealer without firm evidence) and inciting a riot (i cannot shout fire in a crowded theatre) is also a no-no. Free speech is also subordinate to private property rights. For instance, commenters here who shout ‘you’re a f***ing idiot’ will see their comments deleted.

    Actually I think I’d defend free speech against some of the caveats also. You can accuse me of being a drug dealer so long as when the cops drag me away I get my day in court and the police get their asses kicked for pursuing a charge on such weak evidence. The case for defamation laws is in my view quite weak.

    Inciting violence may also be fair comment in some instances. For example if somebody called for company directors to be jailed for work related deaths I would regard this as a tolerable incitement of violence. I wouldn’t agree but I’d think it was free speech worthy of defending. Likewise if somebody said that paedophiles should be hung.

    Conspiracy to commit unlawful violence in a very specific instance where it amounts to criminal conspiracy should not be defended. So “I hate women” is okay but “lets burn down the Boogletown WCA at 8pm tonight during their annual convention using this can of petrol” is not. However in this instance it is not the speech that is the problem but the conspiracy to act.

  2. This quote:-

    “Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.” – George Orwell

    Has a kind of bitter taste to it.

  3. ‘Racial hatred?!’ Stephen Smith should know that Islam is not a racial group but a religion, which means it is essentially an ideology learned by children from their parents, with no alternative ideologies presented to them for choice, rather than a set of physical or biologically hereditary characteristics passed on by people through procreation. One can reasonably hope to change the former through engagement or argument, sometimes over a prolonged period of time. It is the latter that cannot be changed, and is targeted through ‘racial hatred’ – a sentiment that essentially aspires to eliminate its target. Most religions have changed to varying degrees through the ages, often with socially agreeable results, following debates that were often contentious and intense. The period following Europe’s Middles Ages was notable for religious change that had far-reaching consequences, eventually rounding out the hardest edges of Roman Catholicism.

  4. Speech doesn’t hurt. I don’t like caveats to free speech at all. I’d rather see the right to incite violence upheld alongside the right to self defence with firearms.

    Restricting incitement to violence also restricts incitement to overthrow a corrupt government which cannot be a good thing.

  5. I agreed with the old definition of Free Speech, which simply meant you didn’t need permission from the Government to speak in public. All these Hate-crime caveats make a mockery of the concept. What we now have could be called Freeish Speech.

  6. Let’s remember that free speech works both ways – FITNA is about shutting down free Islamic speech and culture – that’s censorship.

    I watched it last night and whilst I hated what was said and the pictures, it’s their free right as Muslims to criticize and threaten the West as much as they like.

    Now, if they follow through with their threats, that becomes illegal and will have to be severely dealt with.

  7. So if a group of rastafarians threaten to kill your mother and have their way with your daughter is that their right also? I think you draw a long bow with your second paragraph.

  8. The problem with the whole “In Australia, we believe in the right to freedom of expression, but we don’t believe in that right to incite racial hatred” trope is that nowadays “racism” has been been reconfigured so broadly that it now DOES impede free speech.

    Muhammadans and their western atheist Leftist fellow-travellers accuse those who dare to speak out against Islamofascism as spewing “racism.” Leftists of course can not resist illiberal authoritarianism. During the Danish cartoon drama, Phillip Adams focused on the Danish “far Righ Xian” newspaper with “strong Zionist connections,” while the so-called “feminist” freaks over at Luvvie Prodeo got stuck into Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a – you guessed it – ‘neocon Zionist stooge’ blah, blah, blah.

    Don’t be fooled. The Muhammadans are tickled pink over western naive multiculti. They fully intend using multiculti as a Trojan Horse to effect their diabolical imperialist agenda.

  9. “There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence. The right of free expression is not at stake here.” – The UN

    “Freedom of speech is not the right to say anything to anyone. There are caveats. These include inciting violence…” – You

    Could you explain the distinction here?

  10. Inciting violence is saying these Muslims need to be taught a lesson and you guys are the ones to do it. You get the baseball bat, you get the molotov cocktail, you get the car, now get to the mosque.

    Saying Islam as a value system is not compatible with Western values, and here is the evidence, is not inciting violence.

  11. Terje in comment 1 has it right. Hate speech is a crock, and the only realistic restrictions on it should be offering threats of actual violence and conspiracy to commit a crime, and inciting violence where violence has occurred as a result.

    “Fitna,” casts no aspersions on moderate Islamic people. It simply points to the violent, evil, and insane activities and rantings of an extreme element within the faith, who in my opinion and in reality have shown little regard for the loss of life among the members of their own faith that in most cases they themselves cause.

    As I have said before, if moderate Islamic people are offended by the publicity engendered by this movie, they should direct their rage at the arseholes who are bringing their faith into disrepute, not at Geert Wilders. He did not invent any of this, he simply put together footage of actual events that are out there in the public domain, linking them to passages in the Koran that are used by terrorists to justify those acts.

    commenters here who shout ‘you’re a f***ing idiot’ will see their comments deleted. I wondered why my stuff seems to disappear.

    (i cannot shout fire in a crowded theatre) Read “Defending the Undefendable” by Walter Block p80 “The Person who Yells Fire in a Crowded Theatre”. Then again you may have.

  12. First, I would have thought the film exposes not only the threat but the reality of muslim violence. Second, being consistent why not shut down Pilger’s hate-films of the USA?

  13. Jim – you’re far too polite for that to happen 🙂

    i haven’t read it – what does he say?

    LP – read the post again. slowly if you need to.

    John – The Muhammadans are tickled pink over western naive multiculti

    indeed. Hassan Butt (reformed English Jihadist) makes this point repeatedly, saying how hard they used to laugh when Western liberals would ‘blame Tony Blair for our actions.’

  14. I believe that the last quote of Orwells is probably the most prescient:
    “In times of unversal deceit, telling the truth will be a relvolutionary act.”

  15. Well, free speech eh.
    John Greenfield, when you say aetheist lefties, does that mean that the genre that goes under the Anglican lefties or Catholic lefties is excluded from your detestation? Or is it the atheist right wing dudes that escape your opprobrium?
    Are you a believer then John? And in what?
    As long as there are believers, there will be people that will be happy to suborn the belief and harnes the faith to their own ends. It really does not matter what the religion is, they have been around for long enough for anyone to be able to find examples of everyone (including the Jains)to “effect their diabolical imperialist agenda”.

  16. BTW John, George O, was a leftie atheist socialist till the end of his days. Didnt mean he was a “believer” and had “faith” he questioned orthodoxies but continued to remain a socialist. ‘I worked out an anarchistic theory that all government is evil, that the punishment always does more harm than the crime and the people can be trusted to behave decently if you will only let them alone.’, he wrote.
    Not too many libertarians saying that today eh mate.

  17. Appu

    sorry mate, but there’s no way you can claim Orwell as a socialist. he despised socialists. next to Churchill, he was one of the staunchest and loudest defenders of liberty during the 1930s.

  18. Pommegranate

    So the fact he was fighting against your friend and John’s Franco is not a giveaway?
    Who else would have done “Down and out in London and Paris?”
    What you may want to start focusing on is the message from
    George. That I think was the topic.

  19. Sorry Pommy but it is absurd to claim Orwell as a libertarian. The man was an economic illiterate to the end of his life though he had the right instincts on non-economic issues. He voted for and joined the Independent Labour party because he considered the Labour party of his day insufficiently socialist (!) I have read a lot of his political essays and there is no doubt he still believed in a semi-planned economy to the end of hos days

  20. OK got some facts wrong but gist is still correct:

    At the time, like most other left-wingers in the United Kingdom, he was still opposed to rearmament against Nazi Germany — but after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the outbreak of the Second World War, he changed his mind. He left the ILP over its pacifism and adopted a political position of “revolutionary patriotism”. He supported the war effort but detected (wrongly as it turned out) a mood that would lead to a revolutionary socialist movement among the British people. “We are in a strange period of history in which a revolutionary has to be a patriot and a patriot has to be a revolutionary,” he wrote in Tribune, the Labour left’s weekly, in December 1940.

    By 1943, his thinking had moved on. He joined the staff of Tribune as literary editor, and from then until his death was a left-wing (though hardly orthodox) Labour-supporting democratic socialist. He canvassed for the Labour Party in the 1945 general election and was broadly supportive of its actions in office, though he was sharply critical of its timidity on certain key questions and despised the pro-Soviet stance of many Labour left-wingers.

    Orwell had little sympathy with Zionism and opposed the creation of the state of Israel. In 1945, Orwell wrote that “few English people realise that the Palestine issue is partly a colour issue and that an Indian nationalist, for example, would probably side with the Arabs”.

    While Orwell was concerned that the Palestinian Arabs be treated fairly, he was equally concerned with fairness to Jews in general: writing in the spring of 1945 a long essay titled “Antisemitism in Britain,” for the “Contemporary Jewish Record.” Antisemitism, Orwell warned, was “on the increase,” and was “quite irrational and will not yield to arguments.” He thought “the only useful approach” would be a psychological one, to discover “why” antisemites could “swallow such absurdities on one particular subject while remaining sane on others.” (pp 332-341, As I Please: 1943-1945.) In his magnum opus, Nineteen Eighty-Four, he showed the Party enlisting antisemitic passions in the Two Minute Hates for Goldstein, their archetypal traitor.

    Orwell was also a proponent of a federal socialist Europe, a position outlined in his 1947 essay ‘Toward European Unity’, which first appeared in Partisan Review.

  21. Jason

    I’m not claiming he was a libertarian but that he
    a) despised socialists and
    b) was a staunch anti-totalitarianist.

    One of his essays (they are fascinating reads) called The Lion and the Unicorn is nothing short of a prolonged attack on ‘left wing intellectuals’.

    sure – his economic knowledge was patchy but he was a journo. 🙂

  22. I reckon if he was economically literate, he would of been a libertarian. Now does someone want to buy this “Trinifar” kid some encyclopedias?

  23. Appu

    Franco was a fascist last time i looked. Now why would a fascist find friends on a libertarian website? I ask the question seriously but i suspect it was merely a cheap jibe on your part.

    and just for you,

    “During the past 20 years, the negative outlook which has been fashionable amongst left-wingers, the sniggering of the intellectuals against patriotism and physical courage, the persistent effort to chip away English morale and spread a hedonistic, what-do-I-get-out-of-it attitude to life has done nothing but harm. In the age of fuehrers and bombing planes it has been a disaster.

    In spite of the ‘anti-fascist’ heroics of the left-wing press, what chance should we have stood when the real struggle with fascism came if the average Englishman had been the kind of creature that the New Statesman (British equivalent of ‘The Age’) wished to make him.”

  24. One interesting reaction I found: –

    Omar Bakri, the Libyan-based radical Muslim cleric who is barred from Britain, did not think the film was very offensive. “On the contrary, if we leave out the first images and the sound of the page being torn, it could be a film by the [Islamist] Mujahideen,” he said. […]

    Pommy; The article is a bit long to quote in full, but here is the start of it. The book is light hearted but thought provoking: –

    In a case against free speech, the “fire!” screamer is Exhibit A. Even those who argue in defence of civil liberties and the right of free speech stipulate that these rights do not include the right to yell “fire!” in a crowded theatre. This is the one case where all parties seem to agree that the right to free speech is not as important as other rights.

    But to override the risk of free speech, for any reason, is a dangerous precedent and never necessary. Certainly it is not necessary in the case of a person who yells “fire!”

    The rights of theatre patron can be protected without legally prohibiting free speech. For example theatre owners could contract with their customers not to yell “fire!” (Unless of course there is a fire in the theatre). The contract might take the form of an agreement in small print, on the back of a theatre ticket or on wall posters placed throughout prohibiting any disturbance of the entertainment or singeling out the shouting of the word, “fire!”………

  25. Stushie (Comment 6). Your comment is ridiculous. Fitna is making its own point, in no way can it be represented as being anti-free speech, it actually seems to do a pretty good job at portraying Islamic speech. You are typical of those who try to apologise for the intolerance and violence of Islam, blaming the messenger. If Islam has anything worthwhile to say rather than the hatred and violence portrayed in Fitna, let’s hear it and engage in debate. But the simple reality is that Islam is laughable in the 21st Century and is incapable of engaging in intellectual, rational debate. It’s only defense is victimhood, “don’t question our beliefs because if you do, you are a racist bigot.”

  26. I saw the film in question. For pete sake, it is their (Islamists) own words and deeds. Racial hatred? Do you hate your own culture and identity to not see what is happening? Islamists and their leftist apologists are trying to silence me, its not working! I will never forsake my freedom to a bunch of dopes, I value freedom more than my own life, put that in your global warming peace pipe and smoke it!

  27. LiveLeak now have Fitna back, along with this statement:

    On the 28th of March was left with no other choice but to remove the film “fitna” from our servers following serious threats to our staff and their families. Since that time we have worked constantly on upgrading all security measures thus offering better protection for our staff and families. With these measures in place we have decided to once more make this video live on our site. We will not be pressured into censoring material which is legal and within our rules. We apologise for the removal and the delay in getting it back, but when you run a website you don’t consider that some people would be insecure enough to threaten our lives simply because they do not like the content of a video we neither produced nor endorsed but merely hosted.

  28. Jim – if it is written on my ticket not to yell ‘fire’, how long do you think it would be before some smartarse teenagers do just that, causing mayhem. not convinced i’m afraid!

  29. Freedom and freedom of speech will always be tested, or rather I hope that will always be tested. Because if they are, it means that both still exist. Fitna is one of those cases. I have to say that the film goes too far, and objectively is designed to cause trouble. Trouble is not a synonym of freedom of speech, and this case the distinction can be fuzzy.

    However, the footage is undeniable and equally infuriating. Their undeniable message is one I do not subscribe to. I do not want my daughter reduced and denied a future chosen by her, not by me or some religious figure. And I do not want my son killed simply because his inclination for science and voracious appetite for ALL knowledge.

    But most important, I do not want somebody telling me how to live our lives.

    Freedom and freedom of speech has an inherited limitation. It is not about causing trouble, but about expanding beyond our limitations.

  30. Pingback: 26 Islamic countries want Dutch to ban Wilders movie » Winds Of Jihad

  31. The “fire in the theatre” argument is entirely bogus. Free speech is short for: the freedom of people to hold and espouse whatever opinions they choose, irrespective of any offense that may cause to others. Clearly, shouting fire in a theatre does not constitute espousing an opinion. If one did so and people were hurt, free speech would not be a defense against being reasonably aware of the consequences of one’s actions.

    Fabianschonholz, the whole problem with suppression of freedom of speech stems from others deciding what goes too far or in judging what the speaker is objectively trying to say. Trouble may not be a synonym for free speech, but it is often a consequence, just as it is equally certain that trouble is a consequence of the suppression of free speech. We should not suppress the message just because some people may to choose to react violently. It is a tragedy that so many western politicians seem to believe that we should.

  32. ‘Muslims should boycott Dutch products over Fitna.’

    Former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir, airing a legitimate response.

    Anybody is entitled to choose how to spend their money, but it’s not reasonable to target all Dutch businesses due to the actions of one man.

  33. Pommy; I did say The book is light hearted but thought provoking: –

    I’m rather glad I didn’t mention his defense of the blackmailer, slanderer and libeler, advertiser, dishonest cop, miser, slumlord, speculator, scab, or stripminer.

  34. It’s not really free speech, but private property that is the issue. Free speech is really an auxiliary right that comes from refusing to curb private property. Fitna was privately produced, put up on a private web-domain. Nobody is forced to watch it. Those who are demanding Fitna be censored are in fact advocating government aggression against private property.

    I don’t see why the owner of a private theatre shouldn’t allow people to shout fire in his own building…provided it was made this right clear on all tickets so that he wouldn’t be guilty of a breach of contract. The “shouting fire” argument is a complete distraction.

  35. Steve – he would cause a riot and people might die.

    private property is not the central issue to Fitna but i see your point. it’s about whether people have the right to ’cause offence’.

  36. Your blog title should read: ‘My right to offend you without a mask over my face.’

    No speech that is anonymous is ‘free’ speech, ‘pommygranate’. It’s speech made cowering behind a lame teenybobber’s mask. Boo-hoo-hoo crybaby pommygranate needs a widdle masky-wasky to say big tuff fings about I-hate-muslim films…speech without ID = a craven rock through a window at midnight, PG. Graffiti on an underpass. Spam.

    Those on this thread who post under their full names are exercising free speech. Kudos. Interesting to note btw that they are generally the ones, whatever their views, who don’t waste much time rabbiting on about free speech. They don’t because they know, either merely instinctively or intellectually, that to do so would be redundant. They defend their right to ‘free speech’ in the only way needed: by exercising it.

    By ‘speaking freely’…which means speaking unencumbered by any imposition of qualitative filter between what they as humans believe and what they as humans say. Only the deliberately obtuse or the imaginatively truncated will be unable to grasp that the self-imposition of a mask over one’s human identity, as a prerequisite for uttering certain ideas/words, represents a qualitative filter every bit as fatally distorting of the relationship between a human’s material and abstract worlds as a fatwa, a death threat, a ‘hate speech’, a censor’s stencil.

    Pommygranate, George Orwell would be horrified at the intellectual sludge-pit that is the internet, but especially at the proliferation of would-be serious blogs/blog threads that invoke his legacy (from all political and ideological perspectives) with an almost pornographic, masturbatory fervour, while utterly missing the deep incongruity that is singing his praises from the safety of facelessness. It is a thundering, thudding perversity of our time.

    His use of an authorial non de plume is quite a different matter to the kind of anonymity I mean. ‘George Orwell’ was a real person, who wrote and spoke and lived and thought as that person, eventually a public figure. There was no hiding. There was no contrived distance between author and non-fictional word. There was no escaping/sidestepping any grimmer consequences of some of his bolder contrarianisms. In a writerly climate where criticism of fashionable ismic trends had a major impact on income, Orwell’s refusal to hide isn’t just important, it’s definitive: the generic legacy of his life’s work is not that ‘he was right about the Commies’. It is that ‘he was right to write what he thought openly and fearlessly’.

    In stark contrast those who rant and rant about the ‘importance of defending free speech’ from behind genuine anonymous masks of the kind on this self-important, pompous thread, remind me of those Monty Python intellectual-revolutionaries sitting around in ‘Life of Brian’ passing earnest resolutions about the need to ‘take real action’ against the Romans.

    You anonymous bloggers simply don’t understand what free speech really is. It has nothing to do with ‘content’ and everything to do with process. ‘Free speech’ is a process. It’s a way of doing speech, not a thing you say with speech. It’s a verb, not a noun. Implicit in the relevant verb phrase – which is ‘to speak freely’, not ‘to say whatever you like’ (although the latter flows from and is a sub-set of the former, as a kind of ‘good faith’ privilege earned by the act of authorial disclosure – is the requirement that the ‘free’ speaker not hide their identity. If – and only if – you eschew authorial masks, then – and only then, by that act – you have earned the right to say anything (and be taken seriously).

    That is the profound significance of Luther’s legacy. Here I stand. It doesn’t mean ‘This is what I think is…’. It means: “You can look me in the eye, and I you, when I tell you that what I think is…’

    The vast majority of ‘libertarians’ online who go on and on and on about ‘free speech’ are neither libertarians or proponents (or exponents) of free speech.

    The usual adolescent jackbootlib pissantry.

    Come on, motormouth: prove your commitment to free speech: re-post this thread under your real name. Otherwise, stop kicking free speech tyres.

    Yours cheerily,

    Department of Free Speech/Men/Boys/Parsing

  37. Steve;The “shouting fire” argument is a complete distraction.

    I agree, the comment was made as a light hearted aside to a comment, and was never intended to be anything more than that.

    Pommy ; Steve’s point is valid and an important aspect of the argument, private property is a big part of it. It is not a matter of whether or not you have the right to cause offense, that is a distraction resulting from an argument on free speech. If we accept those terms we are restricting ourselves to a PC agenda.

    Of course if in the exercise of free speech we have to cause offense, we have the right to do so, if causing offense is an issue, it can stem only from the possibility that the causing of offense may be gratuitous.

  38. Comment by all means eloquent but not ‘free speech’, What a load of specious claptrap, either an argument has value or it doesn’t, entirely irrespective of whether or not the person proffering the argument chooses to clearly identify themselves or not (as an anonymous hypocrite yourself, you are free not to enter into debate with such anonymous people, but anyone who can use the entirely gratuitous and meaningless phrase “pornographic, masturbatory fervour” probably is best remaining anonymous). There are times I feel obliged to append my real name (Paul Buddery) to my opinions, other times I feel it is acceptable to use the nickname given to me by friends many years ago. I tend to do so by instinct, but it has nothing to do with what I say, more to do with the nature of the websites. Here is me using my own name:

    There are two posts because I received a message after the first one telling me it had been rejected because it was too long.

  39. Ummm, eloquent, if you go here or here, we’re all listed.

    There are a couple of genuinely anonymous bloggers around Ozblogistan (I don’t think anyone knows who CL really is), but most of us are easy enough to find.

  40. Muslims and their apologists won’t admit this, but the “right not to be offended by attacks on my religion” is no more meaningful than the “right not to have to pay $10 a gallon at the pump” or the “right not to have a 2 kilometre wide comet hurtling towards Planet Earth”. What the Muslims are really calling for is for the right to be pampered and shielded, like pathetic little children, from the brute facts of existence – they want a therapeutic dictatorship to coddle their fragile psyches and comfort them in their ignorance. Frankly, humans really aren’t that special – we appeared in a blink of geological time, and will disappear soon enough. Wasting precious moments on superstitious fanatics (and, worse, censoring people who do otherwise) is actively maladaptive.

  41. “Steve – he would cause a riot and people might die”.

    The same could be said of the Running Of The Bulls. Everybody who buys in knows exactly what they’re getting themselves into – there’s no reason why a cinema owner (so long as they make it clear where the customer stands) should be treated any differently to the organising committee of a bull run.

  42. Defamation is free speech. Free speech means I can say you’re a drug dealer if I like. Nobody has to believe me. You don’t own what I think of you. You don’t own what anybody thinks of you. Each person owns their own thoughts… which means they cannot own their reputations.

    Shouting “fire” is free speech. Of course, people are free to make rules on their own property, and it wouldn’t take long before it was commonly accepted that entry to a place of business means agreeing to their rules against shouting or scaring people without good cause. Of course, you are free to shout fire on your own land. I find this both amazingly obvious, and perplexing to the degree that some people don’t get it.

    Threats of violence are coercion, so that is the only exception I accept. Even this ambiguity can be avoided by saying that freedom means people can do whatever they like with whatever they own so long as it’s voluntary and peaceful.

    The movie (both making it or watching it) passes those tests and so should be allowed in a free society.

  43. Hey, fellow Libertarians-
    Comment, from the Dept of free speech, gave a long monologue about how those who use aliases give long monologues on the virtues of honesty and free speech! It was a joke! On April Fools Day! Who’d have thought it?
    Good one, Comment!

  44. ‘comment by all means eloquent’

    i) see skeptic’s point #45.

    ii) there’s even a picture of me at the LDP blog. though it’s not my good side.

    iii) 14 paragraphs just about lil’ ol’ me? touched a nerve haven’t i.

    iv) i like the irony of you attacking psudonyms, yet posting under a psudonym 😉 clever. post-modern, even.

    v) ‘jackbootlib pissantry’ are you a social studies student?

    vi) George Orwell is also a pseudonym as you point out.

    So, what, is your point?

  45. Firstly, I haven’t read all the comments and apologize if I am repeating other people’s points but this is a very interesting topic.

    I think there are some obvious cases when deliberate dishonesty should be illegal. For example selling something and claiming it does something it doesn’t do, because I think a sale as a contractural aggreement.

    In regards to the fire example: This is probably in the category of a threat. The audience has no time to rationally assess whether or not there is actually a fire, and therefore is forced to evacuate. Like a false bomb threat.
    If threats occur on private property (by the owner of the property) as in John’s example, I am still not convinced the threats should be legal.

    So while, I’d agree that most defamation such as slander should be legal and be assessed on its merits or lack of, I think threats should be illegal such as death threats and bomb threats because they cannot be assessed on their merits and therefore become an act of force. ie: Free speech is not an absolute. The right to freedom itself is the absolute and there are occaisions where your freedom is compromised by others’ speech (eg/ death threat) because you are forced to take action in this case. eg/ If a country declared war (verbally) on Australia, we would be justified in making a military strike.

    Also, being anonymous or not on the internet is a total non-issue. One has a right to privacy and comments should be judged on their content. “Comment by all means eloquent” appears quite expert in the act of meaningless verbal diahorrea. You’d be suited to a job in academia and general uselessness.
    Try going to Iran and shouting out in the streets that you love gay sex, western heavy metal music, dancing, drinking alcohol, girls in bikinis, the US national anthem and see how long you last. You seem to be a person of good education or possible intelligence which makes your thoughts even more offensive and inexcusable.

  46. Tim, You stole some of my thoughts before I had a chance to put them down.

    Let’s not go overboard with what is or is not free speech.
    Defamation and shouting “Fire!” in a theatre are not free speech. Creating a possible human stampede has the same potential to cause lethal harm as suddenly shouting in the ear of a surgeon while he attempts to delicately perform brain surgery. Both of these unquestionably are, and should be, criminal acts. If we invite someone onto our property (by act or implication) we must remember that we still have a duty of care for their safety before we play our practical jokes of turning on the fire alarm.
    The concept of free speech is that we are free to express political, social, religious or whatever opinions. It is ridiculous to believe that we can extend this to be able to open our mouths and say anything in any situation. E.g. to threaten someone with physical violence, to tell an untruth so as to gain a financial advantage in a business transaction, to tell someone the power is off and it is OK to touch the open wires, to pass the false word around that you once saw the school principle molesting one of his students.
    Yes you own your own thoughts and believing them should never be a crime. Also if you are asked in court what they are you have immunity to publicly declare them.
    But otherwise we don’t have to make public alleged facts that will hurt other individuals. And when making public declarations we must still bear in mind that we might be wrong; that we were too lazy to sufficiently research our facts. If you think you are correct then you should be prepared to go to court to prove them.
    Otherwise it seems a real stretch to claim your rights are being violated because you don’t have the arbitrary right to call someone you don’t like a bankrupt, crack addicted, embezzler.

  47. I would agree that a bomb threat does not constitute fair comment or mere expression of opinion protected under free speech principles. And yelling fire in a theatre when there is no fire does parallel the bomb threat. I think these examples constitute awkward boundary conditions that do warrant consideration.

    What differentiates the following two statements?

    a) there is a bomb in your building.
    b) your community is being flooded with Islamic extremists who are keen to bomb buildings.

    Other than the scope available for reasoned debate and review both comments are somewhat similar. Both could be classed as opinion, mistaken belief, realistic observation or deliberate deceipt. Is there a principled distinction or is it merely pragmatic?

  48. Tim R, it’s a pleasure to find an area of agreement with you! Not everything, of course, but at least many of our ideas of free speech intersect.

    Philip James, I agree with you that defamation is not a free speech right and am a bit surprised that anyone would think it is or should be.

    How can anyone defend the right to defame as being somehow a “good right” in any sense of the words good or right? James sums up the case against defamation quite well.

    Humphreys’ attempt at justification (@ 48) is odd. Frankly it strikes me as completely irrational but, since he usually has something useful to say, perhaps I am missing something. I don’t get how not “owning my reputation” means I have no protection from people knowingly telling lies about me (to put it in the most black & white terms) when those lies might cost me my livelihood or a job or whatever.

    John, you’re right no one has to believe you, but that seems beside the point. If you and I were bidding on a contract and you went around telling lies about me in order to win the bid, that strikes me as just another form of theft, winning the contract by lying about me.

  49. Terje, the two differences are that statement b) comes from a third party and that it is applied to a group.
    Statement b) firstly needs proof of threat. And I don’t think this statement even if true should be the basis for political legislation against the group as a whole.

    This next part is a bit off topic but perhaps you’d be interested:
    Wilder’s as we know and whom most of us support in his brave act of exercising his right to free speech, wants to dramatically reduce the numbers of people immigrating to the Netherlands from Islamic countries. While I despise Islamic law countries, I disagree with his approach because I think it’s wrong to remove the presumption of innocence and legislate against people based on their country of origin, as opposed to treating them as individual separate cases.

    I recently read what I thought was a good article written by the objectivist Craig Biddle on the subject of immigration rights and practicalities. The later half of the article is of the most interest because it offers responses to common concerns about immigration:

  50. My take on it is this:
    “Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”

    Where it says “no law” it means precisely that. No law. If someone screams “fire” in a crowded theater and it causes a panicked stampede out of the building just install a fire escape!

  51. Trinifer — when I’m talking about free speech I’m talking about the right to use what you own to say what you want as long as your actions are peaceful and voluntary. Whether free speech is a good thing or not is a separate question.

    I agree that lying is often a bad thing… but (1) do you really want to make lying illegal? what about ommissions of truth? and (2) I think the consequences of banning lying are worse than the lying.

    It’s also worth noting that defamation laws only protect the rich, the truth isn’t always a defence against defamation, and they have often been used to silence legitimate criticism and commentary. Not good. While the concept of defamation laws may appeal in some circumstances, the reality of the use of defamation laws is not positive.

    Not to mention that defamation laws use government coercion to violate a person’s freedom to do what they like with what they own as long as it’s voluntary and peaceful. While it’s not the only value in life, personally I prefer peaceful to coercive behaviour.

    And once you start using coercion to solve minor problems… then you’re accepting the idea that the government should run around “fixing” (sic) everything they disagree with. This last point won’t appeal to people who think the government does a relatively good job, but I believe that at least 51% of legislation is bad… so I prefer to discourage government activism.

  52. John; For once I am mostly in complete agreement with you. If defamation was outlawed, the effect would be to prevent people from trying to influence the opinions of others, and as you say, defamation laws only protect the rich, the truth isn’t always a defence against defamation, which I fully endorse.

    Ownership of reputation aside, (it could be argued that a person who has lived an exemplary life has an invested capital in his or her good name) the current laws do more harm than good. If I were to say on the ABC or in the Australian, “Humphries is a right wing flat earth economics, homophobic, holocaust denying, global warming sceptic who doesn’t love the gentle lord Jesus, knowing that some of it is wrong, then I am lying and defaming you. (Do you have to be famous to qualify to be defamed?)

    In the current situation you could sue me, but if I have pissed everything up against the wall, you could at most get a judgement in your favor, but probably at great cost and of little benefit to you.

    But as there are laws against defaming you, a significant proportion of the people are inclined to think “It would not be published if it were not true.” I could go on the offensive and point to your reference to “Sky Fairy,” and tour association with Graeme Bird, (“They are always blogging together,”) as well as your advocacy of low flat taxes, (“What sort of person talks like this, in our modern Keynesian society,”) to discredit you.

    I can then make you out to be a real bastard for picking on me over a couple of possible inaccuracies, or better still, claim that, “that sort of person tends to support those other positions.”

    On the other hand, were I to do this in a free society, you could simply say, “Well jim is a pretty eccentric sort of guy, just check out the other stuff he says, he has a very flexible attitude towards the truth, All this started when we were out on the piss and I got to take home the chick he was trying to get onto.” Who looks bad now? (The last bit of course would be untrue.)

    In relation to your comment Threats of violence are coercion, so that is the only exception I accept. I would add that lying about someone in a court of law, is another exception I would make.

  53. As Jim says, what if you’re subpoenaed to court as a witness. Does free speech give you a right to lie?

    What if you know beyond reasonable doubt that your actions will kill or injure someone – and perhaps that’s even your intention – say by shouting ‘fire’ somewhere. Does free speech entitle you to do that?

  54. John H,
    “do you really want to make lying illegal?”
    In cases when I’m taking the word of my butcher that the meat he is selling me has been hygienically prepared, then the answer is unequivocally “Yes!”

    “defamation laws only protect the rich”
    Spare us the class hatred rhetoric. Civil law in Australia is slowly moving towards the American style where you can get no-win no-fee type legal representation where your lawyer will get a bigger chunk of the spoils if you do win. But even if it did only protect the rich, protecting some members of society is still better than protecting none.

    “ the truth isn’t always a defence against defamation”
    Yes there is room for improvement in current defamation law.

    “and [defamation laws] have been used to silence legitimate criticism and commentary”
    Obviously the court (or jury) on the day didn’t think it was legitimate. Courts and juries sometimes get it wrong but that is never a reason to abolish the whole system. At least the defendant could blame himself for not presenting a good enough argument. Better that than the plaintiff not being able to do anything when his reputation and business goes down the drain owing to unsubstantiated gossip.

    Pommygranate, yes.

  55. In cases when I’m taking the word of my butcher that the meat he is selling me has been hygienically prepared, then the answer is unequivocally “Yes!”

    This one is a contract. Not quite in the same vein as a ‘pure’ free speech issue.

  56. Defamation law is bullshit. The protection of telling untruths is inherent in any protection of free speech, no matter what order of hurtfulness the untruth may result in. It is irrelevent what anyone says using their own property so long as it is neither a breach of contract or a conspiracy to commit coercion. Any imposition on free speech is an imposition on property rights.

    If your butcher claimed his meat was free of salmonella, and he knowingly lied, then sue him for breach of contract.

    If someone habitually yells fire in a crowded cinema, deny him entry to your cinema.

    If someone publicly lies about you, refute the lie using your own freedom of speech. If someone is much more influential than you, then you have to rely that either they care about their reputation to be truthful (and will correct nay honest error), or their dishonesty affect you in a way that is inconsequential (lies told by liars to the gullilible would have little impact on most honest individuals).

    Rent seeking by individuals respected on the basis of previous behaviour with the resource to protect themselves is still rent seeking, gaining advantage over newcomers unable to protect their reputation primarily through lack of resources.

  57. Actually I would say “fire” is tortious, and only in sepcial circumstances can torts also be crimes, and the balance is about right. From here, there is no logical step in legislating against such behaviour.

  58. Humphreys: it’s also worth noting that defamation laws only protect the rich, the truth isn’t always a defence against defamation, and they have often been used to silence legitimate criticism and commentary.

    In addition to what James writes, my two cents:

    defamation laws only protect the rich

    How’s that? Seems to me many are protected against the rich defaming them by these laws. The rich have far greater access to media of all kinds to get their words out; others can’t compete with that.

    truth isn’t always a defence against defamation

    Perhaps not, but it is the gold standard. And if it’s not perfect should we just throw out the baby with the bath water? Protection against violence isn’t always effective. Do we then do away with the police?

    they have often been used to silence legitimate criticism and commentary

    At some point or another hasn’t everything? But what are you getting at? I’m not aware of defamation suits being used to shut down criticism and commentary in the US. Maybe things are different in OZ. On the other hand defamation has been used time and again to ruin, for example, whistleblowers.

    Whether free speech is a good thing or not is a separate question.

    Actually the separate question is whether allowing lying about another person’s behavior is a good thing when that lying can have a profound affect on the person’s livelihood. I don’t see how banning of that kind of lying has had a deleterious effect here in the US.

    Is your position on what constitutes free speech within the bounds of libertarianism? Seems to be well outside it, which is fine in itself. Just wondering. I’ve never before seen anyone defend the right to defame.

  59. The poor are not protected by defamation laws because the cost of taking legal action to prove defamation is high. So while the law applies to everybody there is a high barrier to entry in terms of using the law.

  60. Terje, both statements are perfectly acceptable unless applied to political legislation.

    ie: Don’t legislate against race, religion or collectives. That was my only concern.

  61. That works both ways, Terje. The poorer person at least has some legal recourse if defamed by someone rich and powerful.

  62. C’mon free speechers!

    a. If I’m subpoenaed to court as a witness does free speech give me a right to lie?

    b. If I intend through my actions to cause physical harm or death to others, am I right to exercise free speech to this ends eg call out ‘fire’?

    c. If you are the CEO of a large private company does free speech guarantee me the right to knowlingly spread lies about you such that you are forced to step down to preserve the reputation of the compnay, even though no charge is ever proven against you?

  63. The point would be that in a society without defamation laws we wouldn’t be so quick to give credence to what people say. We’d use more judgement as to the person and their reputation. It’s like government regulations to prevent fraud. They don’t work, never will, but people are lulled into a false sense of security because they know ASIC is out there watching out for them…

    Curently we believe what people say because the assumption is that if it is a lie you’ll sue for defamation. But in most cases it’s far too expensive a process to pursue, especially if the other side are wealthy. Also, I believe the test in Aus is not just truth but public interest – so you can still be guilty of defamation if the other side can create doubt that there was a public interest in telling people the truth.

    And there is the Singapore example, where the government bankrupts it’s political opponents with defamation cases every time they say something mildly critical.

  64. This country needs to get over the idea that social groups or identities can have rights. I marvel at how Luvvies can jump and down squealing that the NT intervention is “racist.” Hullo ALL “indigenous affairs” policy is racist because it focuses on one ‘race.’

  65. So far everything presented amounts to conjecture. I’m interested in the underlying principles. I’d say my questions in #72 blow away the property rights approach. Propery rights supersede rights to free speech, but free speech does not extend from property rights alone.

  66. Mick Sutcliffe- the Govmint owns the Court, and as the owner can demand a trueful version of events be told, or they can punish you if you are found to have knowingly lied.
    “Free Speech” simply means the powers that be can’t vet your speech first- it has never meant you won’t pay for the consequences! If you shout fire, and are lying, then you should have to pay for the consequences. The owner of the land on which you make this false claim can sue for damages, if nothing else.
    I think that the owners of property should have the right to speak freely on their own property. (An interesting aside- the bible says you shouldn’t bear false witness against you neighbour. This sounds like a court case; maybe you can lie on non-court occasions!)

  67. Free speech is about ideas and beliefs. It is about what we perceive to be true. I fail to see that we should hold dear to the freedom of people to tell deliberate lies. While accepting that truth is not necessarily black and white, I’d have thought that most of us cherish the notion of truth as much as we cherish free speech.

    I’m more comfortable asserting the right of a racist to express their sincerely held beliefs than for someone to say things that they are fully aware are not true. While I do not believe you can or should set out to stop people doing so, I think it is reasonable that where it can be shown that someone has deliberately lied (rather than expressed their misconceptions as to the truth) and that there have been consequences, that legal sanctions are available, e.g perjury, defamation and libel.

    The argument about what is and isn’t available to people according to their financial means is neither here nor there. Unless you don’t believe in the free market, then there will always be those who can buy more than others, including legal representation, health services and education.

  68. Tim Quilty (@73),

    The point would be that in a society without defamation laws we wouldn’t be so quick to give credence to what people say. We’d use more judgement as to the person and their reputation. It’s like government regulations to prevent fraud. They don’t work, never will, but people are lulled into a false sense of security because they know ASIC is out there watching out for them…

    And what evidence can you offer for this conjecture? Are you suggesting we legalize fraud as well as defamation? Using the same reasoning you might say laws against against assault and property destruction should be eliminated since people would then take more defensive measures on their own.

    This sort of thinking is what keeps libertarianism a small, inconsequential movement. If you hold up reason as a virtue, it’s rather important to show some competence in your reasoning.

  69. This sort of thinking is what keeps libertarianism a small, inconsequential movement. If you hold up reason as a virtue, it’s rather important to show some competence in your reasoning.

    Probably the most profound thing you’ve said on this site………..possibly the most profound thing ever said by a left-winger 😉

  70. Ouch. That’s harsh. I’m suggesting we drop most of the government corporate regulations that purport to prevent fraud but really only impose compliance costs. People can then choose for themselves who they want to invest their money with, and if they make bad choices, bye bye money. You don’t have to legalise fraud to liberalise the investment markets, just stop pretending you can protect people from it.

    I’m suggesting we leagalise most stuff and then let the cards fall where they may. Insider trading, heroin, you name it.

    But that was just an aside to the FoS argument. My point was that without defamation laws, we would be talking about a different society. You can’t analyse people’s attitudes to unsubstantiated claims in that one by applying their attitudes to those claims in this one. Just because people say something, doesn’t mean anyone will believe it. If anything, reputation for truth telling would come to have a much higher value.

    Sure, it’s conjecture. I am not aware of any functioning liberal democratic societies that don’t have defamation laws. Then again, I am not aware of any functioning liberal democratic societies, and that is no reason not to argue in their favour.

  71. Trinifar; All of those like Tim who are able to see a better world engage in conjecture, as do I and most of those here. The libertarian world is seen clearly by those of us who care to envisage it, while living in one made up of ‘crackpot reality’. I think you are wanting to be one of us but to do so you have to tear yourself away from the comforting arms of Nanny State, your protector, Nurse Ratchet carrying the scales of justice.

    If the government provided fuel, could you envisage free enterprise carrying out that function, or would you sit patiently in the queue clutching your ration card, insisting that if companies were allowed to do it there would be shortages? If for the last hundred years the state had provided shoes, would you be able to see the private enterprise system being able to do the same job?

    If the government provided health care, could you envisage private doctors? Would you see a problem with private healthcare in that the state would no longer have a reason to dictate what we could eat, see advertised, or ban lifestyle choices, on the basis of the cost to taxpayers of unhealthy choices?

    Step out into the open and dream of liberty with us. Harold Laski said, “We are slaves of custom, and have begun to hug our chains.” Let go of them.

  72. Jim,

    All of those like Tim who are able to see a better world engage in conjecture, as do I and most of those here.

    Me too. I just like to distinguish between conjecture and sound reasoning based on realworld evidence.

    The libertarian world is seen clearly by those of us who care to envisage it, while living in one made up of ‘crackpot reality’.

    Seeing something clearly in your mind and having it actually work in the real world are very different things. Conjecture, speculation, and envisioning are fine, but obviously need to be backed up my real data and sound reasoning at some point. That doesn’t happen too often in political/economic philosophy.

    As I’ve said before my ideal is libertarian socialism which puts me in the company of people like Noam Chomsky — and on the fringe (or well outside) of what most people, certainly most people on this blog, consider libertarianism. Both forms of libertarianism seek to maximize freedom and liberty. That and the fact that neither is going to being realized any time soon are where we have some meaningful common ground.

  73. Ouch. That’s harsh. I’m suggesting we drop most of the government corporate regulations that purport to prevent fraud but really only impose compliance costs. People can then choose for themselves who they want to invest their money with, and if they make bad choices, bye bye money. You don’t have to legalise fraud to liberalise the investment markets, just stop pretending you can protect people from it.


    And so we can continue to have financial crises just like the present one. As I said to a workmate recently: it is a terrible shame that because of 5-10% of the corporate community acting like cowboys regulations will be introduced to try and prevent another possible financial meltdown.

    The situation is no different from laws in general: a small percentage require the restriction of freedom for many. Corporate debacles roll through the economy too regularly. If people in the business community wish to complain about regulation then they should complain to those bastards in their own ranks who screw everything up for the rest of us.

  74. Well said, John Hasenkam.

    It doesn’t take but a few bad actors in any domain to make things problematic for everyone else. That pattern plays out again and again which is why we end up with government regulation. Not because anyone has a particular love of regulation, but because free markets can’t do the job by themselves.

  75. There is a solid rational basis for free speech. While I personally believe the social contract angle is a more accurate reflection of how society really works, if you approach libertarian thinking from a David Friedman style anarcho-capitalist angle, i.e. free market angle, you still get market delivery of free speech. I personally believe it can be rationally justified that you also get an ethical market based solution to people who use misinformation to actively hurt others or obtain uncompetitive (from a market perspective) personal advantage.

    So I don’t buy Trinifar’s argument that the fact there should be laws against people who use misinformation is a market faiure. I think these laws are justifiable from libertarian theory 101 and are completely compatible with a ‘natural law’ approach and open society.

  76. Current financial crisis? What crisis?

    1. People lived in high inflation and low interest rates, whilst others reminded them COSNTANTLY that the shit would hit the fan.

    Now you can fight inflation now without growth costs or you can have a recession later and have lower nominal prices, high unemployment and higher real prices.

    2. If a corporate director takes on too much risk personally, it is their fault. If investors do not do proper research and blame the director if they get burned by flow on effects, they are just being greedy. Greedy people get punished when they can’t pay back loans or don’t look into business transactions in enough detail.

    3. Sub prime worked excellently throughout the world except for the US.

    US subprime problems stem from the “non discrimination” rules in US lending practices instituted by US Housing Dept. Secreteary Cuomo in 1994. They also arise from the level of price manipulation due to 70% of the US sub prime market issuers being either Government owned or impliclty backed with the full faith and credit of the US Treasury. Thank god we don’t have such a financial system here. Banks cannot discriminate on income as they do elsehwere and there was no incentive to have a credit constraint.

    Let’s compare a) Eddie Groves b) subprime investor or mortgage holderfrom anywhere on the globe.

    a) Got greedy. He was the cowboy. His margin got called.

    b) Got hurt by a US Government led confidence trick and Ponzi scheme.

    How on earth is more regulation going to help?

  77. In a perfect or leftist world Mark people may do the proper research but the facts are obvious: many don’t. So you can rant all you like about people having to behave the right way but that won’t always happen. So insisting that if people do enough research such problems won’t occur is only wishful thinking and even when people do such homework they also can be seriously burned because a bunch of greedy blockheads in some company wants new porches all round next year. Did it ever occur to people that it is possible to become addicted to greed and it is at this point that greed becomes a problem because addiction typically entails a sacrificing of concern for others?

    Forget this assumption that sufficient research will protect the investor. If that were true by now there would be those who never lose on the stock market. As it is, just a couple of days ago Opes Capital went belly up and with it a once formerly labelled “market genius” lost a great fortune. Yeah, he did his homework … .

  78. Yes there are Mark, I’m doing some contract work for a group that not looking so good. I’m outta there …

    There are categories of business failure: sometimes no-one ever really did anything wrong or made bad decisions, they just got hit by bad luck. Shit happens. In this context though we are addressing problems caused by human behavior that most would regard as less than desirable if not outright illegal.

  79. The “current situation” (if you are talking about and its knock on effects sup prime) were caused mostly by poor regulation and subsidies – not corporate cowboys. Shit happens – but if the Government is the cause we can minimise it.

    Why aren’t dishonest directors being prosecuted in the first place? If the law is inadequete, change it.

    That said, how would new regulations help?

  80. But Mark this is simply another display of corporations acting like dumbasses. It happened at the end of the 80’s, the end of hte 90’s, and now people are sick of it. There is no excuse for criminal and\or irresponsible conduct. What you are saying is like the person who says because the govt makes me wear seatbelts ipso facto I can drive as fast as I like because I will be safe. Individual responsibility must take precedence here, running off to blame current structures for criminal and stupid behavior is about as anti indivdual responsibility as you can get.

  81. Thats a new one – citing individual responsibility as a reason to increase regulation. If investors make poor cohoices, the investors lose their money. If the banks make bad choices, the banks go broke. That’s personal responsibility.

    Personally I think the risk of systemic collapse is overstated, but if it really will pull the whole economy down, the govt can step in and nationalise the assets (the scandinavian model) and flog it off for a profit later, sans management and shareholders.

    No problem (except we just justified a role for govt. But then I’m suggesting it was the government regulation that led to the investors and depositors not doing due diligence of their banking and investing decisions themselves an created the problem in the first place).

    Without banking regs the investors might just insist on prudent policies from their management themselves. Without a government licence created oligopoly there would probably be a larger range of banks in the first place, and the dodgy ones would go brokemore often.

    In short there is an excuse for irresponsible behaviour – they expect the government to bail them all out in the end.

  82. Let me add that I think companies that make bad choices going broke is a great thing. I’m all in favour of it. It’s a great way to break management and investors “addiction to greed”. And I’m sure there are a whole bunch of investment businesses that didn’t get burned by the current “crisis”, or certainly not burned to the point of collapse. So – what’s the problem again?

  83. End of the 1980s – Alan Bond goes to gaol.

    End of the 1990s – World Com / Enron execs go to gaol or commit suicide.

    If a lot of small timers go to gaol for fraud, do we need more regulation of our personal lives?

  84. Tim,

    Don’t twist my words, it is clear that my point is it is the failure of individual responsibility that leads to these problems. Relying on the govt is sacrificing individual responsiblity.

    Yes Mark, when those individuals have the potential to cause considerable grief to everyone it is only reasonable that regulations should be introduced to contain the excesses of their stupidity.

    Another issue the protection afforded directors and shareholders. If a company goes belly up and has massive debts, then the people who once profited by it should also service those debts.

  85. That’s just not possible without significantly altering the role and makeup of capital markets John. Or even business to business markets. Are you sure you want to do this?

    Your second suggestion is redundant. As far as I understand, except for mining companies, your liability is limited by your shareholdings, or by the proportion of the company you own. That is the only limitation.

    However I agree that bankruptcy law should be less forgiving.

  86. At the end of the day Mark I would prefer a corporate culture that punished wrongdoers rather than the need for increased regulation. One of the companies I did some work for was a funds management company for property development. The regulatory requirements are onerous and expensive. Now they are struggling to find funds even though not one of their schemes has ever failed(actually it is nigh impossible for their schemes to fail because of rigourous due diligence). If John and Jane Public were aware that when idiots do damage to an industry than those idiots will be treated severely and will earn the general disdain of their fellows, the inclination to be an idiot will be greatly reduced. After all, in business networking is everything … .

    Over the long term this may be the best solution for the corporate community.I would certainly prefer it to more regulation but human nature being what it is I think it will be very difficult to engender within the corporate community that types of values that help protect Joe and Jane Public. On the other hand, in these days there are signs that such a change of attitude in the corporate community is happening, albeit too slowly and of too little effect.

  87. I find this unbelievable.Another issue the protection afforded directors and shareholders. If a company goes belly up and has massive debts, then the people who once profited by it should also service those debts.

    People who invest in a company, sell out and move on to other investments have no responsibility for the future of that company, years into the future. Directors who engage in any sort of fraudulent activity should be charged with fraud. What you are suggesting would not only require current shareholders to be fully conversant with the day to day activities of any company they are involved in, but the past shareholders as well.

    Investors buy shares and trust that the directors are doing a good job. If they didn’t believe that they were they would take their money elsewhere.

    People investing unwisely in the share market tend to do their arses the same way any unwise investors in any other form of enterprise or property do, its as simple as that. Those who want security invest in a different way (property, blue chip shares, etc) while those who wish to increase their take will invest in more risky more speculative areas and take chances and higher risks to achieve their ends.

    Common sense dictates that you do not invest more in a speculative enterprise than you can afford to loose, those who do have no right to cry over it if it goes down.

  88. John

    There is no excuse for criminal and\or irresponsible conduct.

    where is the criminal conduct?

  89. Don’t you read the papers Pommygranate? How many have been dragged through the courts recently? Don’t forget that in many cases prosecution does not proceed because it will be too difficult.

  90. Don’t forget that in many cases prosecution does not proceed because it will be too difficult.

    This I would assume to mean the authorities had not managed to find enough evidence to convince a court. This in no way implies guilt.

  91. Aw, Jim, you ruined the symmetry! We had exactly 101 comments about a speech made by the man who made 101 infamous! (Room 101, from 1984). Now we’ve gone beyond it! How could you, Jim?

  92. Sorry Nicholas, I didn’t think of the significance but only noticed that 100 needed answering. This admission should not be inferred by you to mean that I am not a miserable bastard who likes to spoil it for everyone.

    When someone has the last word he could use the term libertarianism 101 at the end of the last sentence to restore the significance, although the guy that does that has been a bit slack about that lately.

  93. Im for people having the right to say hate speech one reason its rarely hate second its just opinion. Im not a racist but this thing of calling people racist has gone out of control. Racist is believing people are divided into races thats all that means.
    Today anything can be considered racist this is not right. Discrimination is not racism its discrimination period. This is why im for hate speech free speech because its just opinion. Exciting violence is something else but saying you dont like your neighbor is an opinion.
    I think that there should not be favoritism when dealing with minority groups. that being there should not be laws that deny others to have another opinion. Religious group should have the right to comment on any subject you can disagree with them but they should not be forced to agree with you by the government.

Comments are closed.