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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people

Opinion - News Analysis Importance of liberty & democracy in India
Markandey Katju The Hindu: Monday, Jan 26, 2009

As early as 1927, Justice Louis D. Brandeis, of the U.S. Supreme Court observed in Whitney vs. California 274 U.S. 357: “Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties; and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary…They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government. They recognised the risks to which all human institutions are subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law — the argument of force in its worst form.”

In 1949, Justice William O. Douglas in Terminiello vs. Chicago (337 US 1) made a crucial point when he noted that a “function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.” (Justice Markandey Katju is a Judge of the Supreme Court of India.)

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The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. -Edmund Burke

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