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Old 2003-09-20, 04:50   #12
NickGlover's Avatar
Aug 2002
Richland, WA

22·3·11 Posts

Originally posted by Prime95
A common misconception about the first amendment - even in the US - is that it guarantees citizens the right to say anything at any time. This is not what the first amendment guarantees. It only prevents the government from passing laws that limit your right to speak out. Employers, forum moderators, any private entity may create rules that limit speech.
Well, said, George. I would like to add some comments about the distinction between these two views of free speech (which is probably drifiting away from the topic of this thread).

What nitro stated was essentially a positive right to free speech. What that means is that the right requires that others take certain actions (or provide resources) to allow someone to exercise the right. In the case of the forum, the positive right to free speech means that the forum owner would be required to provide the resources (the forum) for people to express views he does not necessarily want expressed on his forum.

Positive rights of various types are most closely associated with the views of socialists and modern liberals in the U.S (however, many conservatives advocate various positive rights).

What George stated was a negative right to free speech. This right requires that others refrain from taking certain actions that would interfere with one's speech. As George noted, an example of this is passing laws limiting your right to speak out.

Negative rights are the traditional approach of most libertarians today and classic liberals from the 17th thru 19th century.

In libertarian rights theory, the negative right to free speech is not a primary right, but instead is derived from property rights. For example, exercising one's right to free speech could involve: giving a speech on one's own land, renting an auditorium to give a speech in, self-publishing a newsletter, or buying commercial time on television. Note that all these involve using one's own property or paying for the use of another's property.

This negative right to free speech is only violated when someone violates property rights or physically attacks someone. So the negative right to free speech does not apply to what nitro can say on this forum. If Xyzzy were to limit what nitro can say on the forum, he is just exercising his property rights over the forum. The negative right to free speech does not give nitro the right to express his views no matter what on the forum; he only can express his views on the forum if the owner agrees to let him. This does not completely prevent nitro from expressing his views publicly because he could pay the costs to host his own forum where he would be able to express whatever views he wanted.
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