Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I think you forget a detail. Nation state, or any state, are sovereign.

If the national community agrees on something, it's all that matter. We don't have to abide by other countries standards on everything especially if we dont like it.

Im thinking as a French I had to fight a lot with free speech absolutists abroad, while at home we're quite okay with selective censorship... it sounds scary to an American sometimes, but hell we dont care :D






The idea that restrictions in human liberty are subject to when "a national community agrees on something" is laughable at best and evil at worst.

> laughable at best and evil at worst.

Forgive me for not just taking your word for it. Citation needed.

Even your freedom of speech is subject to certain restrictions in the US – you can't make violent verbal threats to people, to name one example.

The problem with Law is that laymen opinions seem to matter even less than in other domains.


I think it had to do with how other domains often have new words for things specific to it, but law, in addition to that, frequently redefines existing words and phrases to mean extremely specific things in particular legal contexts. These redefinitions often are not intuitive to the everyday user of the word or phrase. IMO, this is a big reason why lay opinions seem to matter less. That is, they are often commenting on a message that differs from the actual content of the legal text to such a degree as to be "not even wrong", as it were.

Does that also pertain to drug regulations? Because the US certainly restricts a whole hell of a lot of people based on that.

But what is human liberty?

The problem here (as I see it) is that the definition of liberty is very subjective, and yet people make arguments like yours based on the premise that their personal definition of liberty is an objective truth.


But who draws the "human liberty" line? Where and how does "human liberty" and "individual liberty" intersect? Is the Non Aggression Principle the doctrine on this? Or something more progressive that helps ensure minority rights? Some other option entirely?

Liberty and humanism are topics built on millennia of context and nuance. Blanket statements like yours, while passionate, risk being so reductionist that they distract from the important substance of the conversation.


It's for the same reasons that amending constitutions require more buy-in than just changing laws.

You can establish things that you think are "very important" in a society, and make it much harder to change than other things.

Of course, if everyone thinks you're the king of France, you're the king of France. But establishing rules to counterbalance the state's monopoly on violence and making those be pretty strong protections within the framework of laws helps establish the norms!

Everything has an asterisk in these kinds of conversation. I think most people can understand the relative difference in values between "people should have a right to assemble and speak their mind" and "people should be able to park on the left side of this street on weekends"


The idea of someone drawing lines is positivist bullshit. The Declaration of Independence was grounded on the bedrock of Natural law, and the bedrock of the Constitution was the common law. The context for both was American but the principles therein are Universal.

Liberty is the natural order, but liberties can be tempered by morals and laws. If they existed not in nature, but as a set of approved rights granted to you by secular authorities, then your liberty is not your liberty, but your license.


Well, slavery was abolished after the civil war some hundred years after the constitution. So much for human liberty.

75 years, and slavery has existed for thousands of years prior (and that’s most likely an understatement), and continues to exist even in the present day in different forms.

The difference now is whether it is State-sanctioned or not, and sometimes it still is. Liberty is natural, but laws and morality act as the limiting principle. Without them, martial power is the rule and only another martial power can counteract another from engaging in the trade and enslavement of people; but law can also prevent selling yourself into slavery as a way of settling debts. The 13th Amendment is a general prohibition article, one of the only two ever adopted, and the 18th was later rescinded by the 21st.


No idea what you are talking about, really. matter of fact, all major powers of the time, France and Great Britain, had abolished it at least 50 years prior to the US. Both of these powers were monarchies.

France made slavery in mainland France illegal in 1315, in the colonies they had laws regulating the slave trade, as disgusting as it still is, that made torture and family seperation illegal. This Code Noir resulted in 13.2% of freed slaves in Loissiana compared to 0.8% in Mississipi. No lesser person than Robbespierre abolished slavery in France and its colonies in 1794, until t was shortly reintroduced under Napoleon in the colonies.

The British Empire made the international slave trade illegal in the Empire in 1807, in 1833 slavery was abolished in the Empire as a whole, it was achived mostly in 1838.

Tunesia abolished it in 1846, Romania in 1855.

Some countries were late to abolish it, some went faster. But only the US needed a Civil War to some around. And of the major powers, the US was the only democracy, all others were monarchies at the time slavery was abolished in the main lands.


You're missing a couple of data points. 1806 The United States Congress passed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves, which took effect January 1st, 1808. The 1807 law the British Parliament passed didn't take effect until March 1808. 1808 was also the soonest the United States Congress was able to ban the importation of Slaves under Article I Section 9 of the Constitution. In effect, the British Empire stopped trading slaves when its largest market for slaves stopped importing them. Just to round this out, while you are partially right because Brazil at this time was not its own nation, it was later than the United States in abolishing slavery by about 23 years, 1888.

You missed the point of my post though: the difference between slavery today and slavery in the 18th Century is whether it is state sanctioned or not. There is an extant global slave trade that is larger than the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade at its peak, but now it is a mostly black market trade.

The 13th Amendment has a flaw as well; it allows for prison slavery.

> Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

The Black Codes passed within the Antebellum South made full use of this qualifier to essentially criminalize Blackness and re-enslave Freedmen through the prison system.

I'm not saying it was just, nor am I denying the hypocrisy present within the Constitution at the time of its ratification which is in direct contradiction to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. That said, there is such a thing as voluntary slavery, and debt bondage. The former was a means of providing for yourself or your child and is a practice that was recorded as far back as the Code of Hammurabi. The latter has a history in the Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa, and is still widespread in South Asia and Subsaharan Africa. Voluntary slavery is a liberty, but because the 13th Amendment does not make any kind of distinction, it is prohibited along with all other forms except prison slavery, hence my characterization of the 13th as a prohibition article.

You can fault the United States for being one of the last countries to (mostly) abolish slavery if you like. That's fine, but it's not the criticism I would levy, there's plenty of Reconstruction Era and post-Reconstruction Era problems stemming from how poorly the Lincoln Amendments were written which were written with the best of intentions, badly. There's also the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation was in 1862 and the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865 just prior to the end of the Civil War. It's now been 155 years, and the 13th Amendment has been in force over twice as long as all of the clauses related to slavery in the Constitution.

In the absence of law though, there is often slavery. Peoples who are weaker than their neighbors and have nothing else to offer are usually enslaved by their neighbors. If you don't have greater martial power and it isn't costly to take you, you're dead, or a slave.


I don't think liberty is the natural order, but something we have to fight to keep, each generation has to carry that fight. Once it is gone it will be a lot harder to regain.

Another thing is that liberty is very difficult to define, and anything from a libertarian paradise to a socialist one (as in Scandinavia) can be the most liberty for different people.


You see, I disagree but not entirely. I do think it is the natural order, but that you are right, you have to fight to keep it.

America is a good example of where we used anti-democratic institutions towards democratic ends. We retained a parliamentary body, but we subordinated it to the Constitution rather than maintaining the premise of parliamentary supremacy. We retained the previous makeup of Congress in the Senate much to Madison’s chagrin, and even improved it somewhat by going from 1 State Vote to 1 State 2 Separate Votes; in exchange we got buy in during the ratification conventions. We put an elected official in Office in place of a King, with term renewal. We introduced an Electoral College into the process because these were the pre-Telegraph pre-Railroad days where it might take six weeks to go from the Potomac to Philadelphia, and made Congress the fallback when the EC couldn’t decide on an overall winner (this process was expected to be used more than it has been, most notably in 1824). We came up with political parties, and they functioned very well for a long time at keeping riffraff and people morally unfit for Office from ever coming close to the White House, up until we threw open the doors to the smoke filled rooms and made it so any DINO or RINO could run for President under the Party banner which is now we ended up with President Trump and Bernie Sanders was twice a serious contender in the Democratic Primary despite not serving as a member of the Democratic Party. Juries have absolute power over one simple question: guilty or not guilty, and peoples’ lives hang in the balance of that question.

Liberty is natural, but we do temper it with morals (it is sinful to kill) and laws (we will execute killers). There is no justice in lawlessness, and if men were Angels we wouldn’t need justice.

> Another thing is that liberty is very difficult to define, and anything from a libertarian paradise to a socialist one (as in Scandinavia) can be the most liberty for different people.

This speaks to our collective failure as a society to regulate our morals and understand our liberty. In part it is because we rely too much upon the State to do so for us. What societal understanding we do have of our own liberty is rooted in our liberties under the Common law, which despite its name, is as much tradition as it is law, traditionally tempered by Courts of law and equity, but which can be overturned by statute; and the natural law.

We don’t have a law saying that you have a right to live, to have sex, to have children, and to form a family. Nor do we have laws saying that you have a right to engage in commerce. These are rights, but not rights in the positivist sense where the State will provide these things for you under rational principles, but rights that are intrinsic to being born alive and grow healthy enough to engage in these pursuits. If you are sterile, you cannot sue for a remedy from nature for this misfortune, although our society is vast enough and complex enough that you might still form a family by other means, it is not owed to you.


> Im thinking as a French I had to fight a lot with free speech absolutists abroad, while at home we're quite okay with selective censorship... it sounds scary to an American sometimes, but hell we dont care :D

I'm not surprised you're being downvoted as I've tried to make this point with American friends before and gotten the same reaction 10/10 times.

To use a very topical example: in other jurisdictions outside of the US, racism is a crime, and speaking out in favor of it or discriminating against someone verbally is not protected by free speech.

In fact, jurisdictions outside of the US often do not even have a definition for the "right to free speech" – it's obvious that you can say whatever you want.

It just so happens that by saying some of those things you may be doing something illegal, not unlike how threatening someone isn't a protected action in the US. So it's not so much a matter of censorship, but one of limits to rights. Every right has certain limitations, and free speech isn't absolute, be it in America or elsewhere.


And in those other jurisdictions you don't have free speech. A woman in Austria was convicted of blasphemy for a factual statement, because it hurts the feelings of people following that religion. Apparently our European human rights that say they protect free speech don't protect free speech.

Free speech as a strongly held value is incredible, because it avoids situations like the above (Austria). It also avoids situations where the police pay you a visit to check your thinking over a tweet (UK). It also avoids the situation where a teenager gets arrested for quoting rap lyrics on Instagram (UK). It also avoids situations where you can be fined for insulting the president by holding up a sign that says "get lost, you prat" (France). It also avoids situations where the government can refuse to allow (not ban, simply do nothing) the publishing of video games, movies, and books in the country (Australia and New Zealand).

Note that in the French case the ECHR actually got their act together and found the French law to be in violation of free speech. If that situation had happened in the US then there wouldn't have been a fine in the first place, because the right to free speech is that important.

People accept these kinds of things, because they don't think they'll ever be in the wrong. However, when it happens to them there's no real recourse.

Edit: keep in mind that that are the countries that are considered to be doing well.


The recent flux of videos of US policemen physically assaulting people making use of their free speech right tends to make me think it's not in fact "that important" in the US to be honest.

You're absolutely not wrong that this detracts from it. However, the courts in the US won't side with the policemen on this. They seem to be rather protective of the first amendment.

As an aside, police violence happens in the countries I mentioned. Not as much, but it does happen. Eg the yellow vest protests in France had a problem with this.


I really don't follow. The police doing something that the population doesn't support, doesn't mean the population supports the police actions. Not to mention "use of free speech" in this context is a big disingenuous. Are the police attacking people who are speaking their mind? Protesting and being asked to clear an area? Rioting? Peacefully protesting? Etc.

Free speech is extremely important in the United States, especially amongst sensible, regular everyday people. There are some elements on the far left who have been turning against free speech, but thankfully they are fringe groups that are largely ignored (Antifa/BLM Marxists, etc.)


Well, let's take an example : "It also avoids situations where you can be fined for insulting the president by holding up a sign that says "get lost, you prat" (France)."

The police fined the guy, which doesn't mean that the french people supported the police on this (they didn't), and that the law supported the police on this (it didn't).

So either police actions are a good scope to evaluate the importance of free speech, or either they aren't, but it shouldn't be only when it's convenient.


If free speech doesn't protect a person's right to say negative, bad, or even wrong things, it's not free speech. Even the strictest authoritarian regimes don't restrict people from saying approved or positive things--that simply wouldn't make sense unless their goal is to have zero speech whatsoever.

> I've tried to make this point

"Point" in your comment means the muzzle of a gun, not a logical argument.


Oh. But can I think about something illegal ? Can I write something illegal down on paper ? Say something illegal quietly ? Can I say something illegal loudly in the middle of the forest ? Saying something is just a way to make your thoughts known by others. Thought police, and thought crime are just a tear drop away, it seems.

Sorry, but that's called the slippery slope fallacy

It's happening in the UK. Google "I need to check your thinking" for an example. You need to have some clear boundaries between speaking-crime and thought-crime otherwise they get blurred and you end up with something like McCarthyism.

@xwolfi Agree with you as long as majority of national community agree, it is ok. This is how democracy works the minority are suppressed one or the other way and things go the way majority wants. Indeed even on HN if a comment is down-voted it's greyed out so that people cannot read those minority views (obviously if its a hate speech can be flagged, which is already done, but then its thin line and needs tremendous restraint and transparency).

This is another slippery slope and Covid-19 will increase censorship further. Indeed India by censorship legitimize the censorship regimes around the world (including China).

Been working with Internet since it's early years in 1991 and hope it remains free. But it seems less and less likely given every country wants to create it's own Internet, as it became important for being in power.


India allows internet/app companies from other countries. It's just banning chinese apps because it is now in conflict with China.

Same as authoritarian states, e.g. Microsoft Bing and related social network linkedin works in China. Besides Europe and USA, China is one of the largest market for US and European technology companies.

Given the amount of censorship in India, treatment of its minority and arresting protestors without due trial for innocuous Facebook and twitter posts, because some politician or ruling administrations is hurt is not something one needs to be proud of.

As I said it's a slippery slope once the power is given to regime it's hard to get back.

Also just for information India's ranking on Internet Freedom for reference. [1]

[1] https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/freedom-in-the-world-...


yeah I agree to some extent. Current Indian govt. is quite fascist, but hopefully can be voted out (unlike the PRC in China). Not to say that they won't try their best to hold on to power and turn the secular state into a Hinduist one.

We can respect another nation’s sovereignty without respecting their authoritarianism. I very much believe we should be disrespecting the hell out of authoritarian States, much more than we do so now because authoritarianism doesn’t stop at the borders, it stops at the practical limit that a State can enforce its laws which is why when the NBA was quite literally kowtowing to the PRC, we had a problem with that.

PRC corporations have a history of behaving in a mistrustful manner, combined with their obligations to the PRC State which treats its citizens as subjects, and sometimes not even its citizens, but anybody of Chinese descent, PRC corporations absolutely should be singled out and treated with mistrust. Our corporations have the obligation to turn a profit for their shareholders and sometimes that even means entering into a contract with the government, but theirs also have the obligation to advance the interests of the State. Dual mandates, even when not initially at odds with each other, often eventually come into conflict with each other, and State-owned or controlled corporations often don’t even have the profit incentive but are instead subject to politics. See also: the American corporations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for examples of why they’re a bad idea, although their enterprises are domestic.

This is off topic but since you brought it up, we’re not the free speech absolutists that we believe we are. What we took issue with specifically was the idea of a central government regulating speech, assembly, the press and the establishment of churches. We still had established churches for quite some time, but they were governed by the States, not the United States. Let me quote you the First Amendment:

> Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Everything you really need to know is in the first five words. It’s a prohibition on Congress, not a grant of rights, and this would later come to be incorporated against the States as well such that their legislatures have the same restrictions. The reason this amendment exists at all was 1. To quell dissent from the Anti-Federalists which campaigned against the Constitution in the ratification conventions and 2. Because then and now, we’re a nation of dissenters. Many of the people that migrated from Europe to the United States were religious dissenters or penal colonists living in exile. I don’t know to what degree you studied the Huguenots in French history, but they made a few attempts to establish themselves, each time French politics seeking their resupply attempts after the initial landing, before receiving a land grant in what is now Brooklyn, and then was part of the New Netherlands.


As a french I completely disagree. These laws are harmful to everyone who dears to speak.

In France, censorship is a real problem for most intellectuals and individual citizens . Assa Traoré, the leading personality protesting against police violence has been repeatedly sued. Charlie Hebdo, the satiric newspaper that was attacked by terrorists who killed 12 people had been repeatedly sued. Eric Zemmour, a right-wing intellectual has also been condemned for speaking. Citizens who have placed a "Macronavirus" (concatenation of Macron, our president and Virus) sign in front of their house have spent a night at the local police station.

"Hate Speech" is a way too broad definition. And the censorship in France is getting bigger and bigger, notably since the highly-controversial Avia Law that forces Social Media platforms to censor "Hate Speech".

All these examples, have been made with non-evil governments. Our current president is a centrist and the last one was a leftist. Now, imagine what could happen when the far-right has to decide what "Hate Speech" is? I don't want to live that, and the Rassemblement National has been rising to dangerous levels.

We would be much better with constitutional and absolute free speech as in the US.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: