Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Freedom of the Press

Well stories have gone back and forth regarding press freedom in New Orleans these days. There have been claims of a general press blackout that turned out to be exaggerated. It would appear that the press is pretty free to roam about, although there have been some instances of harassment. CNN had to sue to get the right to photograph the collection of bodies, but that too is now being allowed.

We get a lot of 'feel good' and patriotism reasons for supporting a free press, but I wanted to write something about the practical benefits of a free press and civil liberties in general.

Accomplishing some task like securing the boarders against terrorist attack is an extremely difficult thing to do. The boarders are long and so many people are coming through that providing complete security is nearly impossible. Now if we grant the public officials in charge of providing this security with broad powers to silence the press and arbitrarily arrest anyone then the task of providing security does become moderately easier but not all that much. It will remain a nearly impossible task. However, what will become very easy is to silence anyone who points out that the officials are failing to do the job. Under these conditions the officials will then be free to do a truly inept job of providing security with no fear of accountability and will typically over time do a worse and worse job of actually providing security. This is the model that has been followed through all of history. Granting officials these powers, restricting civil liberties and freedom of the press will eventually lead to far worse security than we have with these freedoms. That is why we need to insure that they stay in place.

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