Thursday, June 28, 2007

Election Free Speech

Free Speech to criticize our federal politicians was removed by the Canadian Liberal Party and the Supreme Court of Canada upheld it ... not so much in the good old USA:

Justice Scalia began his concurrence by writing:

"A Moroccan cartoonist once defended his criticism of the Moroccan monarch (lese majesteé being a serious crime in Morocco) as follows: ‘I'm not a revolutionary, I'm justdefending freedom of speech . . . I never said we had to change the king -- no, no, no, no! But I said that some things the king is doing, I do not like. Is that a crime?'

"Well, in the United States (making due allowance for the fact that we
have elected representatives instead of a king) it is a crime, at least if the speaker is a union or a corporation (including not-for-profit public-interest corporations) and if the representative is identified by name within a certain period before a primary or congressional election in which he is running

I agree ... Ouch.

Of course the Supreme Court of the United States need not look so far a Moroco, Canada is right next door. We made speech by individuals illegal for the full run of a Federal election campaign. Worse, the Supreme Court of Canada said that the law was a necessary infringement to our freedom of expression, thus turning our freedom of expression into a privilege from a right. However, as with McCain Feingold in the USA, the Canadian Election Act provisions probably will not hold up to judicial scrutiny once someone is actually charged under the act.

(HT: Instapundit)
(CP: Little Tobacco)


eng said...

Would it not be true that criticizing the King of Morocco is always a crime there?

Limiting individuals during an election is a lot like limiting freedom to shout "fire" to times when you are not in a theatre.

With a limited time campaign period, it seems the parties are expected to have a spending ceiling, ostensibly to make the election more fair.

"Individuals" making their own advertising falls outside the party limits, and so negates the spending ceiling in the first place. Given that the advertising venues are finite, one group could theoretically buy up all the TV ad slots, and prevent another group's message getting out.

I don't see a free speech issue here, but the campaign financing limit is an issue. I would like to see your arguments on this. Perhaps you favour no campaign spending limits, and therefore no limit on anyone putting out their own message during an election. I am sympathetic to that idea, but have not really looked at all it would entail.

MapMaster said...

Entail? To whom? Your speech or money — at any time — would entail to me just as much or as little as I would like it to, and similarly my speech or money to you. Free speech isn't conditional on elections — rather it's the other way around.

eng said...

"all it would entail" means looking into how to counter such things as one wealthy party buying up all the advertising time on the local TV, radio, newspapers and billboards. Or do we go to the old broadcast system in Italy? No frequency regulations, just put up the biggest transmitter and you own that channel.

Suppose a papal bull is issued telling parishioners who to vote for? Do you now extend free speech so the church is compelled to allow equal time for other candidates it dislikes?

I could not find the SOC ruling you mentioned. Does it apply to web sites and blogs? It should not because these can expand to accommodate expressing all viewpoints.

For the situation where there are only so many soapboxes, and soapboxes take time to make (like TV stations etc), how do you decide who gets a soapbox and who doesn't?

mark said...

You shouldn't lose your right to speak just because you have more money than the guy down the street. If a rich guy wants to spend his own money buying all the ad time then good on him. This used to be a free country.

eng said...

This used to be a free country.

Yes it was. Then the red man came, with his traditions and social structure. And after that the white man came with his laws and social structure. All took away freedom.

If we were truly free, the rich man wouldn't be spending his money on advertising. There would be no need since there would be no elections. Dissent would be crushed by his private army. Everyone would be "free" to oppose him and be killed. And he would be free to kill any who opposed him.

Like everything else, freedom with no limits is not freedom at all.

MapMaster said...

Eng, you almost had me thinking you were on the right track when you wrote:

If we were truly free, the rich man wouldn't be spending his money on advertising.

And then you started in on the old dialectic between limits on freedom and destructive, purposeless anarchy — a dialectic that may be useful in certain kinds of abstract arguments, but detracts from the question at hand here. But to return to your statement, by itself it is absolutely correct — if government didn't abridge freedoms, then politicians standing for election wouldn't have anything to sell, ending neatly the problem of prospective buyers. In the less hypothetical realm, if government reduced the available supply of abrogations of liberty, there would be less demand.