Saturday, August 10, 2013

To overthrow liberty, start with free speech

Excerpted from a post Friday at the Cato Institute blog:

Cato Makes Dick Durbin’s Enemies List
by Ilya Shapiro

As reported on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page and picked up by the Chicago Tribune among many others, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has been sending out letters to anyone he has determined to have funded the American Legislative Exchange Council since 2005.

Durbin … is now seeking to shame anyone ever associated with ALEC.

That includes Cato. Earlier this week, we received a letter from Durbin [similar to those received by companies] …

Our president John Allison has responded to Durbin with a letter that I’ll quote in its entirety:
Dear Senator Durbin:

Your letter of August 6, 2013 is an obvious effort to intimidate those organizations and individuals who may have been involved in any way with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

While Cato is not intimidated because we are a think tank—whose express mission is to speak publicly to influence the climate of ideas—from my experience as a private-sector CEO, I know that business leaders will now hesitate to exercise their constitutional rights for fear of regulatory retribution.

Your letter thus represents a blatant violation of our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. It is a continuation of the trend of the current administration and congressional leaders, such as yourself, to menace those who do not share your political beliefs—as evidenced by the multiple IRS abuses that have recently been exposed.

Your actions are a subtle but powerful form of government coercion.

We would be glad to provide a Cato scholar to testify at your hearing to discuss the unconstitutional abuse of power that your letter symbolizes.


John Allison
The article says Sen. Durbin is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School. It seems like he slept through constitutional law, or at least skipped that part about what the Founders intended when they created the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and (especially) the Bill of Rights.

There are dozens of quotes available to illustrate the original intent of the Constitution. Here’s one from Ben Franklin (suggested by DaveG) as reported by Sourced
Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or control the Right of another …

This sacred Privilege is so essential to free Governments, that the Security of Property, and the Freedom of Speech always go together; and in those wretched Countries where a Man cannot call his Tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own. Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Freeness of Speech…
— Benjamin Franklin, July 9, 1722
Note to regular readers: due to the crush of work, I’m behind on blogging on key topics but hope to catch up soon.

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