Two of the abridgments of Freedom of Speech, which the Left has totally ignored, and only the Libertarians have addressed, and even then feebly, are Libel and Slander, which together constitute Defamation, or an assault on, or “injury” to Reputation.
Article 1 Section 10 of the Oregon Constitution states, in part, that “every man shall have remedy by due course of law for injury done him in his person, property, or reputation”. This Section of Article 1 badly needs amending, and, if elected Governor, I will urge the public and legislature to do so.
Unfortunately, it has been generally held in America that it is legitimate to restrict Freedom of Speech if that speech maliciously or falsely damaged the reputation of another person. Basically, Libel and Slander laws argue a “property” Right of anybody in their own reputation. But this is obviously patently false, because Reputation is based solely on the subjective feelings, emotions, and attitudes held by others within their own brains. But since no one can own the feelings, emotions, and attitudes and opinions taking place in another person’s brain, it should be obvious that no one can literally have a property right in their own reputation. People’s reputations fluctuate all the time with the fluctuations of belief and opinion of the general public. No one can possibly own that. Therefore, speech attacking someone, even if malicious and false, cannot be an invasion of personal property Rights, and therefore should not be subject to restriction or legal sanction.
Is it moral to employ libel and slander? Certainly not. But, as Libertarians, we are solely concerned with what is legal under the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration, not with what is moral. Unfortunately, they are not always congruent.
However, even on a pragmatic level, the abolition of Libel and Slander, the components of Defamation of Reputation, would have a healthy effect on our society. Firstly, if Libel and Slander laws were abolished, people would be far less likely to put credence in charges against major figures without confirming documentation. Currently, people are far more likely to believe an outrageous charge, since, if the charge were false, the person would sue, so if the person doesn’t sue, people will say “Why doesn’t he sue?” and the outrageous lie will be believed. If the “Socialist Crier” newspaper claims that Paul Grad has sex with ants (it’s not actually true), and Paul Grad doesn’t sue, the false accusation is far more likely to be believe.
Moreover, our Friends on the Left seem to have completely overlooked the fact that Libel laws discriminate cruelly against the poor, since a poor person is far less likely to be able to afford the very costly libel suit which the wealthy person can afford. Indeed, under current law, the wealthy can use the Libel laws as a taser against the poor, gagging perfectly valid criticisms and accusations under the threat of sueing them for Libel.
Thus, the poor man is far more likely to have his Freedom of Speech abridged in our society under our current Libel laws than he would if these laws were abolished. Something which the Oregon’s three or four Leftist political parties never seem to mention.
Fortunately, the American Libertarian impulse against restrictions on Freedom of Speech has managed to somewhat weaken these laws, like the Oregon Statute of Limitations of one year in which to begin a suit. But Freedom of Speech will never truly be Free in America, especially for the poor, until Libel and Slander laws are abolished. And Oregon should be in the forefront of that abolition.
So let’s abolish Libel and Slander laws in Oregon, and Amend Article 1 Section 10 to eliminate the words “or reputation”.
Paul Grad, Libertarian, for Oregon Governor, paulgrad4governor.wordpress.com