Front Page Titles (by Subject) Does Censorship Harm Freedom? - Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4
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Does Censorship Harm Freedom? - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Does Censorship Harm Freedom?
“Pornography, Sex, and Censorship.” Social Theory and Practice 4 (1977): 183–209.
Arguments in favor of restricting freedom through censorship reflect certain attitudes about sex that many reject. Thus, judgments about pornography will depend on people's different attitudes toward sex. By carefully examining some of the major anti-pornography arguments, the author seeks to establish this point.
An examination of this emotional issue demands close reasoning to deal with the arguments of those opposed to pornography. One observation favoring freedom against censorship is: “...people who want the stimulation of erotic materials, who feel freer in expressing themselves through the influence of sexy art, who do not want an environment in which sex cannot be appreciated through explicit literature and art, will hardly be impressed with the manner in which the censor protects their privacy.” The author also turns around an argument favored by pro-censorship advocates: “...if being a remote cause of harms is a prima facie ground for censoring literature, then we have some evidence that the conservative arguments ought [themselves] to be censored. This is not a view I advocate.”
The crucial argument against censorship is based on its jeopardy to freedom: “The...important issue turns on the fact that a great many people like and enjoy pornography, and want it as part of their lives, either for its enjoyment, or for more serious psychological purposes. This fact means that censorship is an interference with the freedom and self-determination of a great many people, and it is on this ground that the conservative harm argument must ultimately be rejected.” Two general objections weaken the case for censoring pornography: (1) Pornography is not distinguishable from other reading materials in producing direct harms of one kind or another; it may, in fact, offset other materials which are more likely to have these effects; and (2) The alleged indirect harms of pornography—those produced through the influence of altered attitudes and beliefs—are highly unlikely. Furthermore, a society which values freedom will not allow such alleged harms to become the basis of suppression without strong evidence of probable causal connections. A free society will seek to counter such remote putative influences by non-coercive means.
Slavery represents an extreme affront to liberal values as historically the most blatant form of hegemony or legal, involuntary subordination of one person to another. In the ancient world there was disagreement over the naturalness of slavery and other forms of legalized inequality. Aristotle's doctrine of the natural slave and of the just subordination of slave to master offered a natural law defense of slavery with questionable parallels to other forms of “natural” subordination: body to mind, citizen to polis, wife to husband, and child to parents. Under Aristotle's system, the slave's virtue was not autonomy but obedience to the master's mind and will. Other ancients, however, argued-still within the natural law—that slavery was a matter of nomos (custom or conventional man-made law) rather than physis (nature). But Aristotle preserved a muted reference to the dissenting liberal view:
others affirm that the rule of a master over slaves is contrary to nature, and that the distinction between slaves and freemen exists by law only and not by nature; and being an interference with nature is therefore unjust. (Politics i, 1253b)
Certain liberal-minded Sophists (as discussed in Eric Havelock's The Liberal Temper in Greek Politics) even went beyond indicting slavery and judged that all authority and subordination rested on coercion and nomos as its sole justification. Slave-holding Greeks, embarrassed by such reasoning, were likewise caught up in a moral dilemma when they wished to denounce tyrannical government as a form of slavery. The desire for political liberty, thus, easily led to questioning slavery and coercive inequality of every kind and degree. The complex of tensions and contradictions involved in the institution of slavery are discussed in detail in two volumes by David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1966); and The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution: 1770–1823 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1975).
Even the philanthropic Stoics and early Christians never called for the abolition of slavery, however much they might stress the slave's common humanity. In his chapter on ancient “Masters and Slaves,” M.I. Finley trenchantly remarks:
On the contrary, it was that most Christian of emperors, Justinian, whose codification of the Roman law in the sixth century not only included the most complete collection of laws about slavery ever assembled but also provided Christian Europe with a ready-made legal foundation for the slavery they introduced into the New World a thousand years later. (In The Ancient Economy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973, pp. 88–89.)
A radical shift in moral consciousness was necessary to make society sensitive that the evil of chattel slavery was but one glaring form of a vaster system of unjust legal subordination and privilege. The opening summary by Davis, accordingly, analyzes the various eighteenth-century cultural and intellectual forces and the new sensibility that converted indifference to indignation concerning slavery. Even earlier (as the Russell-Wood summary discloses along with the cited books by Lewis Hanke) natural law and rights arguments were advanced by the Spanish missionary, Bartholomé de las Casas, to condemn Amerindian slavery. But it remained for the agenda of the systematically liberal temperament of the Enlightenment philosophes (see Hunting's summary) to launch a sustained and socially effective movement to abolish slavery as a moral contradiction to the values of natural liberty and equality. These liberal efforts led to the temporary end to slavery in French colonies in 1792, to slavery's abolition in British possessions in 1833, and finally to American emancipation of slaves following 1863.
In the United States, the antislavery movement itself exposed other embarrassing contradictions of subordination and unequality. Thus, American abolitionists, while working for social equality of black slaves, were rent asunder in 1840 on the issue of allowing a woman, Abby Kelley, to be elected to the previously all-male business committee of the American Antislavery Society. Still more radical, the leading abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison met great resistance in antislavery circles by advocating “nonresistance,” a form of Christian anarchism that opposed all forms of direct political action—even to remedy slavery—as forms of moral subordination and corruption of autonomy (see Ronald G. Walters, The Antislavery Appeal: American Abolitionism After 1830. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976, pp. 3–18.