Mark S. Weiner

Archive for the ‘Freedom of speech’ Category

John Stuart Mill and the Rule of the Clan in Sweden

In Freedom of speech, Individualism, Race, Rule of the Clan, Sweden on March 26, 2016 at 11:41 am

Two items were published this week that brought me away from thinking about documentary film and back to The Rule of the Clan.

The first was a blog post titled “Why Libertarians Should Champion Social Liberty,” by Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center. Taylor advances a position that at first glance seems to run counter to core libertarian principles: he argues that “freedom is advanced by [government] preventing private racial discrimination.” This view is anathema to many libertarians, Taylors notes, who believe that government action to prevent private discrimination is “flatly immoral no matter how well-intentioned or worthwhile the consequences might be.”

But Taylor suggests that this is a misunderstanding of the libertarian tradition—one of whose patron saints, John Stuart Mill, had this to say in the first chapter of On Liberty:

Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant—society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it—its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.

Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.

Taylor then goes on to suggest—here’s the kicker—that “Mill’s heir on this matter might well be Mark Weiner.”

… Pause … Read the rest of this entry »

Argentina: Populism, the State and Positive Rights

In Affirmative action, Antitrust, Argentina, Constitutional law, Conversations, Cross-cultural encounters & comparisons, Economic regulation, Freedom of speech, Gender, Latin America, Race, Video on November 3, 2012 at 12:01 pm

My new post is entirely in video format. It’s a short conversation with an Argentinean scholar about constitutional law in his country, including some differences between law there and in the United States. Our conversation touches on affirmative action, gay marriage, voter identification, and economic regulation, among other important issues. My wife says it’s fascinating, and I hope you’ll agree.

To watch, just click on the thumbnail below, or to see it in larger format (which I’d recommend), click above on the title of this post and then click again on the video window:

Of Mexico, Blasphemy, and the “Feel-Clash” of Legal Difference

In Aesthetics, narrative, form, Blasphemy, Cross-cultural encounters & comparisons, Freedom of speech, Islam, Law and literature, Method, Mexico, Pakistan on September 26, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Last week I attended an exciting talk by the journalist David Lida, who for over twenty years has documented everyday life in Mexico, particularly Mexico City, in ways few other writers are able to do (because Lida has both great compassion and serious nerve). During the event, Lida read from the manuscript of a semi-autobiographical novel, and an episode he recounted nicely illuminates an issue I’ll be examining centrally on Worlds of Law.

In addition to his career as a writer, Lida has an unusual side job. He works as a “mitigation specialist” for attorneys representing Mexicans in the United States who are facing the death penalty. What this means, in essence, is that he unearths the back-story of people who have been accused or convicted of capital murder to help persuade courts to show them leniency—if a sentence of life without the possibility of parole be can called lenient. In practice, the job requires Lida to travel to humble, sometimes dangerous places and persuade strangers to reveal intimate details about other people’s lives: about their friends, parishioners, cousins, brothers, and sons. He then stitches those fading snapshots together into a narrative for American defense lawyers.

It is work that requires moral and physical bravery, a surplus of “negative capability,” and a skilled pen. Read the rest of this entry »