For a long time, democracy has proven itself the best governing model in every country among all the other governance systems. And freedom of speech is an essential part of this system that keeps society functional.
Freedom of speech is undoubtedly necessary to keep societies functional since it unleashes more avenues of progress in any community. It also allows people to voice their opinion without getting in trouble, thus giving respect to the differences of opinion, which is the first step toward a progressive society.
Why is Freedom of Speech Necessary for Functional Societies?
Freedom of speech is mandatory for functional societies for the following reasons.
Freedom of Speech Helps Rulers Justify their Rules
Democracies work on the principle of measuring popular sentiments and devising policies as per those sentiments. If any government fails to make its policies in line with the people’s wishes, it will only create popular unrest.
Freedom of speech allows people to voice their sentiments without any worry, which helps governments discern this opinion. Ultimately governments incorporate this opinion into their policy-making, which assists them in justifying their rule to the masses.
Some of the ways which governments can use to measure public sentiments under the freedom of speech are:
- Public debates
- Protests and demonstrations
- Polls and surveys
- Opinion mining
- Sentiment analysis
Free Speech is a Safety Valve to Keep Governments on Track
Freedom of speech is crucial in keeping societies functional as it keeps the government on track. Politicians know very well that they have to go in the next elections, so they act in accordance with the public perception, which only reaches them if they allow the freedom of speech.
This doctrine of free speech acts as a safety valve to purge authoritative tendencies. See the example of countries that rarely go to elections, e.g., Russia or China.
Media groups are silent in those countries, with little to no scrutiny of the government; hence comes the human rights abuses. The Russian president invaded Ukraine as he had no popular pressure mounting against him. This is how dictators work, as they have little to do with public pressure. People who tried to differ from the Russian president were forcefully silenced. Multiple businessmen who voiced their opinions against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine have mysteriously died since the start of Putin’s attack, as they were not allowed to speak freely under Putin’s watch.
Free Speech Justifies Popular Democracy Doctrine
Sometimes politicians think that they can make better decisions alone and keep societies functional without the input of the citizenry.
This thinking drives authoritarianism as “better decisions” can be a subjective term that can vary from case to case. Inviting people to give their opinions through freedom of speech broadens the horizon of people.
Under the current prevailing concept of popular democracy, freedom of speech is mandatory. But it is not a common practice in most democratic countries.
Even in those countries where democracy is a declared form of government, practicing freedom can be tricky at times. This is due to the pro-authoritative leaders who think that they can exercise their rule better if they are left undisturbed.
But history suggests that these rulers can only survive in the long run if they continue curbing people’s opinions and violate their human rights.
Should Politics be Discussed in Schools under the Free Speech Concept?
Under the discussion of the necessity of the freedom of speech, a common question usually arises whether politics should be discussed in school or not, if the freedom of speech is really that much necessary.
Because if it is all about freedom of speech, students should also be allowed to consume political narratives in schools as per their willingness.
There is a thin line between freedom of speech and hate speech, which, if ignored, can result in chaos. Obviously, no one should be allowed to yell “fire” in a packed theater. Separating hate speech from freedom is the key to promoting it even in democratic rules.
Not Every Free Speech Has Equal Weight
Even if everyone is allowed to opine as per their wishes, there is no guarantee that other people are willing to listen and buy that speech.
This is called the marketplace of ideas, according to which different opinions compete with each other in the public sphere and believe in those ideas only of those who successfully manage to influence them.
Because if one person is willing to speak as per his own wish, the other is mandated to consume information as per their own.
This also establishes a functional society, as people act on their own without external influence. Keeping people free and giving them a sense of security is the way forward for most democratic leaders, and freedom of speech does the same exactly.
Amid all of these free practices, not everyone is heard equally. Free speech of some people has more weight than others, even if their opinion has equal worth.
For instance, if someone has relations in the media and access to social media handles with many followers, it is easy for them to increase their outreach. But this is not necessarily the case with someone having no platform to express their opinion but having revolutionary thoughts.
But this is how the world works. Sometimes the better narratives are crushed just because they don’t have a proper platform to express themselves. This same holds true for uncontrolled capitalism, where workers’ sentiments can often be crushed for the pursuit of owners’ profit.
People can only allow rulers to rule them if they are not being threatened by their government. And under any democracy, leaders have to justify their rules, or they would face extinction in their next elections.
If the freedom of speech is allowed, it will also give opposite political candidates an opportunity to campaign against incumbents.
This means that free speech is necessary to keep society functional, not only from the general public’s point of view but also from the politicians’ viewpoint.
Freedom of speech is protected under the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Having free speech enshrined in the constitution may not be an extraordinary thing in modern times, but the availability of enough platforms to voice that free speech is surely an extraordinary thing.
There are several countries where free speech is protected under their constitution, but these practices only exist on paper in those countries.
So the media is chronically suppressed in those countries. This is one of the prominent reasons why most of the third-world countries are not functional since only freedom of speech makes the societies functional.
Eli is a Political Data Scientist with over thirty years of experience in Data Engineering, Analytics, and Digital Marketing. Eli uses his expertise to give the latest information and distinctive analysis on US Political News, US Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, and Racial Justice equipping readers with the inequivalent knowledge.