Liberalism and Permissible Suppression of Illiberal Ideas

Inquiry 55 (2):171-193 (2012)
Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to consider the following question: To what extent is it permissible for a liberal democratic state to suppress the spread of illiberal ideas (including anti-democratic ideas)? I will discuss two approaches to this question. The first can be termed the clear and imminent danger approach, and the second the preventive approach. The clear and imminent danger approach implies that it is permissible for liberal states to suppress the spread of illiberal doctrines and ideas only if they pose a clear and imminent danger to security and/or the stability of liberal democratic institutions. The preventive approach, which is the one that I will propose and defend, goes further than this: it implies that it can also be permissible for a liberal state to restrict the spread of illiberal doctrines and ideas in order to prevent certain extremist illiberal groups (which I will term offensive illiberal groups) from gaining increased popular and political support, and in order to prevent such groups from becoming significant and powerful political actors. However, the evaluation and choice of liberty-limiting suppressive measures should be guided and restricted by two principles or side-constraints: the significance principle and the least restrictive means principle.
Keywords free speech   illiberal groups and ideas   liberalism   political extremism   tolerance
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References found in this work BETA
Joshua Cohen (1993). Freedom of Expression. Philosophy and Public Affairs 22 (3):207-263.
Joel Feinberg (1973). Social Philosophy. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.,Prentice-Hall.

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