June 28, 2005

Marketplace of Ideas

Looking at my Google AdSense ads, I marvel at the diversity of opinions seeking to be heard.

They represent, quite literally, a marketplace of ideas. People are spending money to get these small commercial blurbs read by web surfers (please click on them to support this site, btw).

Looking at them today got me to thinking about the figurative marketplace of ideas. Consider this quote, from the originator of the phrase, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes:

"Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition. To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent, as when a man says that he has squared the circle, or that you do not care whole-heartedly for the result, or that you doubt either your power or your premises. But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year if not every day we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country."

Whenever some leftist gets the vapors over some alleged suppression of dissent, read the facts in the case that led to the above dissent and ask whether we are more or less free today. Are we hauling Michael Moore into court under some sedition act? Are we shutting down MoveOn.org or the Democratic Underground under the Espionage Acts?

Call me Pollyanna, but I think we have it pretty good.

Posted by JohnL at June 28, 2005 11:51 PM
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