Why inclusion of minorities must restrict the majority’s freedom of speech

Writing at Front Page Magazine, Bruce Thornton complains about the lies—such as calling the scandalous behavior “pedophilia”—that the media has used to cover up the fact that the Church sex scandal is really about homosexuality in the priesthood. He writes: “When a minority [in this case homosexuals] rightly demands full inclusion into democratic citizenship, it must accept as well that it will be subject to the same open scrutiny and discussion of its behavior and interests that the majority is subject to.”

What Mr. Thornton doesn’t understand is that the moment a society, in the name of democracy and equality, grants “full inclusion” to formerly excluded groups such as Muslims or homosexuals whose beliefs and behavior happen to be fundamentally incompatible with those of the society, the society by that very act has given up the ability to speak unpleasant truths about those groups, because such unpleasant truths would exclude those groups once again. Indeed, the society only opened its doors to those groups because, in its devotion to greater and greater equality, it had decided to stop thinking about those unpleasant truths. The only way for the society to have kept its freedom of speech would have been to avoid such inclusion of incompatible groups in the first place.

Serious political thinkers including our Founders have always understood that democracy, with its inevitable evolution to more and more equality, must lead eventually to the loss of the most fundamental and necessary freedoms, including, as we now see all around us, the loss of the freedom to engage in public discussion of the most important issues facing our society. It’s a lesson that contemporary “conservatives” seem very far from grasping.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 03, 2002 05:45 PM | Send


I agree with most of this, but it is not clear to me that the founders rejected plenary equality. Jefferson would be a good example of a founder who seemed to embrace equality and rejection of tradition wholeheartedly, for example, as any good Net libertarian can make clear with a quote-gun. Certainly the founders saw strategic problems with pure democracy as a means to achieving freedom and equal rights. Thus the republic. But democracy and equality are not the same thing: clearly for the most part the founders thought pure democracy suspect as a structural implementation, but to claim that equality-qua-equality was not sacrosanct (if indeed that is the claim) is almost certainly a stretch. It seems possible that a principled conservative has to not only throw out liberalism (including the classical variety) in order to, for example, oppose same-sex “marriage” but must also reject the founder mythology that pervades so much of American “conservatism.”

Posted by: Matt on June 3, 2002 8:12 PM

For me as a European this founder mythology of yours seems incredibly funny. It reminds me of Soviet people worshipping mummified Lenin. Wake up - your founders copied all their (essentially liberal) ideas from Locke and other European thinkers. And their whining about English tyranny over American colonies is so pathetic (especially when yor realise that these liberal fighters against tyranny owned their own _slaves_).

Posted by: Ar(t)isto on June 4, 2002 4:33 PM

When a group of men invent the art of drawing up written constitutions that create nations of continental proportions, and the one they draw up actually works for better than 200 years through extreme changes in conditions and circumstances, it makes sense to take them very seriously as political thinkers. That’s especially true if it’s the constitution of one’s own political society.

Posted by: Jim Kalb on June 4, 2002 5:53 PM

I think the question of whether the founders should be dismissed as morons is beneath discussion (although I might make an exception for Hamilton). It seems to me that dismissing Marx as an idiot is just as provincial, though, and the notion that any of them personally understood the implications of their own projects and alliegences is dubious. I wouldn’t suggest dismissing their discourse as irrelevant any more than I would suggest idolizing it.

My own view is that the American founders tried to replicate the checks and balances of Christendom structurally while maintaining a core liberalism as justification for the regime. Supreme court as papacy, president as holy roman emperor, congress as aristocracy and governors as kings held together in a feudal mess of checks and balances at least until the 1860’s. Early America managed to divorce itself from Continental rejection of the feudal honeycomb, although whether it did so just to be different from Europe is an open question. Probably it has more to do with the proximity of slaughters like the Peasant Rebellion to rejection of Christendom’s checks and balances; surely these learned men were not unaware of such things. But at the end of the day how things are arranged isn’t as important as what everyone believes.

America has always been a strange and contradictory mix of conservatism and liberalism, and I think that that may have had a slowing effect on the progression of liberalism relative to other places; it may also provide some insight into why the Continent (I think honestly) views America as rather juvenile.

Posted by: Matt on June 4, 2002 9:29 PM

Let me state my concern differently. Appeal to tradition is anathema in modern politics; so much so that I think American conservatives tend to substitute an appeal to a constructed-but-usually-false image of the founders where what would properly appear is an appeal to tradition. It seems to me that a principled conservative probably has to reject this founder-idolatry.

Posted by: Matt on June 4, 2002 10:14 PM
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