I've long been interested in the idea of freedom of speech. Without it, we don't really have true democracy, after all. But the whole concept is open to interpretation -- as well as being highly emotive -- so double standards often apply.
In past decades it was the conservative side of politics that was most censorious. Significant battles like the Oz obscenity trial come to mind. But these days it's clearly the Left who really want to control what we can say. Deceitful and sinister, political correctness is a truly poisonous form of censorship.
This idea that the government knows what's good for you better than you do yourself comes through in other ways such as bike helmet laws and plain packaging of cigarettes.
There was an interesting debate about the idea of this creeping "nanny state" last night on Lateline. In it, Senator David Leyonhjelm debated Michael Moore, CEO of The Public Health Association of Australia.
Leyonhjelm is clearly an intelligent and rational person. I can see why his prescriptions would infuriate many on the Left. They are primarily motivated by emotions, in particular an inflated sense of their own virtue. One of the ways they feed this is by "caring" for others. But that "caring" often morphs into control. Look at any communist state and you'll see just how far that can go!
Leyonhjelm's more detached view can be seen throughout the interchange, but particularly in this segment about health damage caused by smoking:
EMMA ALBERICI: Let's talk about a nanny state issue then, smoking, is that a nanny state issue?
DAVID LEYONHJELM: Absolutely.
EMMA ALBERICI: But doesn't smoking have the ability to cause ill health to other people around you?
DAVID LEYONHJELM: Yes. Secondary smoking, and I'm not denying that and nor does anybody on my side of the argument deny that. What we do argue is that it's a personal choice when you're not affecting somebody else and yet we have nanny state measures such as plain packaging, such as very, very high taxes that are intended to stop people from smoking, irrespective of whether they are harming somebody else.
EMMA ALBERICI: But won't they harm the economy overall if they end up becoming sick and in fact, very sick because we know that smoking causes a lot of harm and kills?
DAVID LEYONHJELM: It does. It makes people die earlier. And that actually saves the economy money.
Lefties watching that bit would have thought he was the devil incarnate! But he was just being rational. If you're going to talk about cost then you must look at things dispassionately, like an accountant. Can't have it both ways.
Speaking of detachment, and lack thereof: Michael Moore was brusque and borderline rude to his opponent. He was also dismissive of the whole idea of the nanny state, as if it was some sort of wacky conspiracy theory.
This is a favourite tactic of the Left. Keep saying that grounds for criticism just don't exist, that the arguments are so ridiculous as to be laughable. It's a way of implying that opposition is mad, bad or both and can be extremely effective if done in a concerted way.
He ended on a patronising note:
EMMA ALBERICI: Michael? A final view from you.
MICHAEL MOORE: Absolute nonsense of course. I think David is quite confused. One minute he says yes we should have it on this, we shouldn't have it on that. The reality is and I suppose this is almost where we agree, is that there is a balance between personal responsibility and good government stewardship as outlined by the Ethics Committee. So it's that good stewardship that we want inform ensure that we have an appropriate level of freedom as individuals as we should have and an appropriate level of government stewardship.
"Appropriate." Sounds reasonable. But just as one man's meat is another man's murder, appropriate for some is suffocating for another. Something tells me he'd support a much greater level of "government stewardship" than I'd be comfortable with, which is why I'm glad there are people like Leyonhjelm in positions of power to question it.