"Freedom of speech is a luxury that contemporary liberal democracies cannot afford. Its harms and dangers outweigh its benefits." Discuss.
Australian Politics and Government: POLI1010 Wednesday 10 am-12 pm John Tate 31st of August In recent years, freedom of speech has been under increasing pressure in Australia. The extensive debate about this issue is understandable, as it involves balancing two fundamental principles of liberty and equality. It becomes a rather volatile issue when the act of free speech is highly valued by some because only then do the limitations placed upon it become a divided, controversial debate. Throughout this essay, I will discuss how liberty within a liberal democracy can become complicated when limitations get placed on highly debated topics such as racism and same-sex marriage. I will also go on further to explain both the negatives and positives of section 18C of the constitution and the impact of hate speech on marginalized minorities.
When talking about freedom of speech, it is important to understand what liberty means within a liberal democracy. One of the earliest vocalizations of the demand for liberty was by the English philosopher John Locke, where he centered his argument on the individual's right to religious freedom and how the state must be limited on its interference based on one's religious beliefs (Locke 1993: 189-91). However, it is argued that the practice of liberalism within liberal democracies becomes multifaceted. Some of the reasoning behind this is the need to compete to gain a political identity within the original democratic tradition, to uphold the priority, and gain a political majority (Tate 2016: 35). The rising conflict between liberty and democracy comes from two different approaches of toleration. From a democratic perspective, the majority demands conformity which ultimately outweighs concerns with tolerance of minorities. A more liberal perspective in contrast, would view that different responses to toleration amongst the public would jeopardize individual rights (Tate 2008: 2). Thus, with these two 'toleration' perspectives inconsistent with each other's values, the fight between freedom of speech and mutual respect becomes the most conflicting issue in modern Australia today.
The process of promoting limitations on freedom of speech has become more apparent in Australia over recent years. In regards to policy, section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth), originally asserted by the Keating government, was enforced to make it unlawful for a person to conduct offensive behavior because of one's 'race, color or national or ethnic origin'. Although this act was to encourage 'tolerance', it is argued that it is constitutionally invalid as well as morally wrong (Finlay 2017: 32). Finlay argues that the current law that's in place discriminates because it judges what a person says based on who the person is. She also states that equality before the law is...