Anyone who has spent time following debates about speech and privacy regulation comes to recognize the striking parallels between these two policy arenas. In this paper we will highlight the common rhetoric, proposals, and tactics that unite these regulatory movements. Moreover, we will argue that, at root, what often animates calls for regulation of both speech and privacy are two remarkably elitist beliefs:
- People are too ignorant (or simply too busy) to be trusted to make wise decisions for themselves (or their children); and/or,
- All or most people share essentially the same values or concerns and, therefore, “community standards” should trump household (or individual) standards.
While our use of the term “elitism” may unduly offend some understandably sensitive to populist demagoguery, our aim here is not to launch a broadside against elitism as Time magazine culture critic William H. Henry once defined it: “The willingness to assert unyieldingly that one idea, contribution or attainment is better than another.” Rather, our aim here is to critique that elitism which rises to the level of political condescension and legal sanction. We attack not so much the beliefs of some leaders, activists, or intellectuals that they have a better idea of what it in the public’s best interest than the public itself does, but rather the imposition of those beliefs through coercive, top-down mandates.
Read more of this commentary by Adam Thierer & Berin Szoka in The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Progress on Point No. 16.19 on The Technology Liberation Front or access the pdf version of the article.