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Location: California, United States

I am a neolibertarian minded individual who feels that freedom and individual rights take precedence over the wants of government. I believe government exists to serve the people and not to protect us from ourselves. I am an advocate for private firearms ownership, smaller government, reduced taxes and freedom to live your life however you choose, providing you do not directly hurt others.

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Sunday, February 06, 2005

Freedom of Speech and Privacy

Heretical Ideas just posted an article that shows hope for the 1st Ammendment and for the concept of legally protected privacy. In short, a judge dismissed an obscenity case partially on the grounds of privacy. A company that sells obscene pornographic material over the internet was hit by a sting operation from a US Postal Inspector. The inspector went to the web site, paid for a membership with a credit card and then used his membership password to buy videos which were then sent to his house.
The charges were brought under three federal obscenity statutes - one statute that prohibits mailing matter that is "obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile"; another statute that prohibits using the Internet to traffic in such material; and a third statute that prohibits conveying such material in interstate commerce.
Let's be clear here, the stuff that this site allegedly sells is in my opinion vile, and both the judge and the defendents agreed that the materials were obscene. Nevertheless, it seems to me (and apparently the judge), that it is not the role of government to keep adults from possessing and acquiring offensive materials, providing all parties to the production of such material are consenting adults and are not demonstrably harmed.

Here are a couple of other quotes:
[A]fter Lawrence, the government can no longer rely on the advancement of a moral code, i.e. preventing consenting adults from entertaining lewd or lascivious thoughts as a legitimate, let alone compelling, state interest.
the lawyers for the defendants in the Extreme Associates case took a different tack: They categorized pornographic speech - indeed, even obscene speech - not just as speech, but also as part of readers' and viewers' sexual liberty and sexual privacy. And Judge Lancaster wisely accepted, and eloquently elucidated, these arguments.

Here's what I like about these statements:
It is the duty of government to enforce laws as allowable within the limitations of the US Constitition. If the people feel that a moral issue should become a law, they should have to go through the full process necesary to make that law. In this case it means tampering with the constitution, which will be an incredibly difficult and uphill battle. While this difficulty protects filth peddlers, it is also what protects us from a Soviet style of censorship in which more important freedoms could be taken away.

If adults are not hurting anyone, they should be able to do/own/use/practice/ingest whatever they want in private. That's what freedom means to me: the ability to do what you want providing you aren't hurting anyone else or hurting our country. This includes everyone: gays, revolutionary thinkers, harmless perverts, dope and tobacco smokers, computer geeks who create new encryption software, gun owners, people who eat too much junk food, political dissidents, religious devotees, people who believe in non-injurious corporal punishment for their kids, etc. etc.

In this specific case, the following facts were known:
  • there were multiple layers of protection to keep the stuff out of the hands of children
  • all parties involved in making, selling and buying the porn were consenting adults
  • the case was the result of an arbitray government sting and not the result of complaint from a private individual who felt wronged in some way
  • ample civil penalties could have been assessed in place of pressing criminal charges
Given all of these things, I respect the judge for going against previous obsenity rulings and throwing out the criminal charges. Privacy and freedom are important and I like it when a ruling comes out in favor of them.

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