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Many people around the world are forced to live without a voice for themselves. These people live in constant fear of the consequences they may face if they do voice their opinions. This lack of a voice goes against the inalienable right that is known as freedom of speech, which is defined as “the legal right to express one’s opinion freely” (Merriam-Webster, 2020). These restrictions of free speech can be countered through the use of government checks and balances and having laws that protect such rights.
Free speech is a critical part of human life, and when that is taken away justice is taken as well. Justice is defined as “maximum equal liberty regarding basic rights and duties for all members of society, with socio-economic inequalities requiring moral justification in terms of equal opportunity and beneficial results for all” (Pomerleau). This absence of justice is a distributive justice issue and is defined as “the fairness of the distribution of something among several people or groups. Whatever is distributed or divided can be a benefit—such as pay for work or the right to speak or vote—or it can be a burden, such as taxes, household chores, or homework” (What are the…). Related to this issue is the philosopher Rawls, he believed ‘The basic liberties intended concern such civil rights as are protected in our Constitution—free speech…’ (Pomerleau). Free speech is a serious issue that should be examined often to ensure it is still available to everyone.
How it works
Many places in which there is a strict government in place people are losing their power to speak freely. Governments like dictatorships or places where one person is in charge of everyone are more susceptible to losing free speech. In these places people are unable to share their opinions or their thoughts on situations. Most of these places punish people if they speak out. Also, in these places people are desensitized and are not aware of the life they are living.
Freedom of speech was taken away from people in the fictional world through Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451. In this novel books are banned and anyone or place that has one will be burned down by firemen. In a world without books people cannot learn, ‘ Maybe the books can get us halfway out of the cave. They just might stop us from making the same damn mistakes.’ (Bradbury, 1953 p. 70) and if they cannot learn then the society will become stagnant. Also, people living in a world of censorship become lost. ”Granger touched Montag’s arm. ‘Welcome back from the dead”” (Bradbury, 1953 p. 143).
Not only is free speech taken from people in the fictional world but also in the real world. In places like China people’s freedoms are taken all the time. “Xi’s censorship of the Internet is unpopular with the majority of China’s 650 million Internet surfers” (China since 1949, 2018). Also, in these places the people in charge have an abundance of power and do not allow the people to have any power. “The announcement that China was ending term limits for the president in February 2018 led to concerns that president Xi Jinping was attempting to consolidate increased power for himself at the expense of China’s political processes” (China since 1949, 2018). It is safe to say that a society or a world without free speech brings multiple problems with it.
There are many things that can be done or implemented to reduce the amount of people in China and other places that fall victim to not having free speech. The first is having a checks and balance system in place to prevent one person from taking rights from everyone else. This would be built through the government with some aspects being chosen by the people. As seen in Chart A having a three-branch government system keeps everything in balance. This three-branch system is the one that the U.S. uses to ensure everyone is doing their job and people are not overstepping. By using this it eliminates one person having all the power and taking rights from the less powerful.
Another way to ensure rights like free speech are given to everyone is to make laws that require everyone to be given such rights. “In 1776, the American Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, declared that ‘all men are created equal’ and ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,’ including ‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” (Human rights: Should…). These laws would be like the U.S. laws in the Constitution. They would be created by the government and enforced by the judicial branch using the three-branch system. These both can be referenced to the U.S. as they have both been put in place and used to ensure free speech to ensure free speech to everyone.
While free speech is beneficial, some people will disagree and say that it is best for people to not have free speech. They will say that free speech results in a divided nation. “They are also at fundamental odds with each other, meaning that the day in, day out debate over what counts as acceptable speech is driving Germans further apart” (Bittner, 2019). They use the slide divide that may occur to show that had no one spoke up, there would not be a divergence in society. Also, they will say that using U.S. systems will not work because people from Eastern cultures do not have the same beliefs as Western cultures. “Muslim leaders were in unison at the United Nations this week arguing that the West was hiding behind its defense of freedom of speech and ignoring cultural sensitivities in the aftermath of anti-Islam slurs that have raised fears of a widening East-West cultural divide” (At U.N., Muslim world…, 2012). Statements like these make people believe that no Western help can be done in Eastern societies.
While the arguments made to avoid free speech are valid, they are in fact false because free speech is needed in a society for it to function and grow. “The twin concepts of equality and freedom spurred both abolitionism and the feminist movement in the 19th century” (Human rights: Should…). Free speech also opens the door to other rights and things for other people to get. “Thanks to their tireless efforts — often in the face of jail time, beatings, and, in some cases, death — Congress eventually passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” (Witter, 2019). Free speech does not bring division in actually makes people work together in order to change the world for the better.
Based on the facts, censorship and loss of free speech can be avoided using ideas from the U.S. like checks and balances, and laws. Free speech is extremely important to keep a society alive. A checks and balance system and laws will work, as it has been used in the U.S. and everyone has free speech. Places that allow free speech, benefit from the effects of free speech. A world where everyone has free speech is a better world indeed.
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