Diminishing Free Speech: The Crisis for a Free Society

This week, Michael Bloomberg and Charles Koch co-authored an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal to highlight how free speech has eroded on college campuses, the very place where open inquiry has historically been celebrated, protected, and enshrined as necessary to students’ intellectual growth.

This deterioration is troubling, because free expression is essential to all we, as Americans, hold dear: It allows us to engage with people with whom we disagree through civil debate, and it promotes the free flow of ideas, which leads to discovery, innovation, and growth.

Hostility toward free speech and views that contradict or challenge the “majority” view has long been a tactic used to silence dissent in the face of discrimination and injustice, but social progress also depends on the free flow of ideas. As Bloomberg and Koch write:

“Whether in economics, morality, politics or any other realm of study, progress has always depended upon human beings having the courage to challenge prevailing traditions and beliefs. Many ideas that the majority of Americans now hold dear—including that all people should have equal rights, women deserve the right to vote, and gays and lesbians should be free to marry whom they choose—were once unpopular minority views that many found offensive. They are now widely accepted because people were free to engage in a robust dialogue with their fellow citizens.”

Bloomberg and Koch are not alone in their observation that college campuses are less welcoming to open discourse than they were in years past. Last year, President Obama commented on the importance of engaging with people who hold different views, particularly in college. As recently as last week, he made similar remarks during his commencement speech at Howard University.

Practicing respect and civility in the face of challenging speech raises the level of discourse and ultimately increases peace and progress. That’s why the Charles Koch Institute and Charles Koch Foundation are dedicated to promoting a culture of toleration, free speech, and open inquiry. As part of this effort, the Institute recently awarded its first annual Prize for American Free Speech, and the Foundation requests proposals for research projects related to toleration.

Read the full op-ed at The Wall Street Journal

More News Stories

08-02-2019 01:40pm

Statement from Will Ruger in Response to Reports of an Initial U.S. Peace Deal with the Taliban

William Ruger, Vice President of Research and Policy at the Charles Koch Institute, on reports that the U.S. has reached an initial peace deal with the Taliban that would include a drawdown of 6,000 troops.

Read more

07-17-2019 02:41pm

Charles Koch Institute Applauds Freedom of Information ‘Accountability Engine,’ Cites Immigration Data as Proof of Importance

As part of years of work requesting and organizing the findings of millions of public records requests, scholars at Syracuse’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse discovered immigrants now wait an average of 727 days for decisions on their cases.

Read more

07-16-2019 11:41am

Setting the Table for Discussion on How Tech Platforms Address Extremism

Media and technology firms are grappling to discover and refine the rules, tools, and standards that address substantive concerns about extreme content while allowing free expression to thrive. Communities Overcoming Extremism: the After Charlottesville Project is bringing together private sector leaders to talk about the questions and discoveries arising in different online communities.

Read more

Sign up for updates