~200 words, ~1 min reading time
I’ve been reading Chapter 2 of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty – “Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion”. In part, I wanted to figure out what Mill would think about things like social media outlets banning or restricting the speech of people like President Trump.
A couple observations:
- JS Mill does not draw a sharp distinction between legal consequences and social ones. As far as he’s concerned, if there are penalties that arise from simply expressing a thought – even if those penalties are just social stigma – then it is a violation of the liberty of discussion. In this way, Mill would disagree with a position that I’ve seen many Hoppe/Rothbard libertarians suggesting that “these are private companies, so they can do what they want”.
- On the question of instigation to riot, JS Mill’s most informative passage in this chapter is in a footnote. In this footnote, he talks about how discussion of Tyrannicide should be allowed. In brief, his view is that the discussion of tyrannicide should be allowed – it is a totally valid moral question to consider – but that instigation to tyrannicide could be punishable IF there is an actual act and “at least a probable connexion can be established between the act and the instigation.”
Given all this, I suspect that Mill would be opposed to a Twitter ban for Pres. Trump, though he seems be in favor of treating incitement to riot as a crime. But, dishing out punishments for a crime before there’s a trial would probably be an issue.