Corporate responsibility to free speech in a free market – My Tuppenceworth speech

Our Free Speech event, My tuppenceworth, on Tuesday 19th November gave lots of people the opportunity to speak.  One of those speeches came from Malachy McDermott, London Group Leader of the Libertarian Party, we have reproduced the text below.

I am a libertarian, I believe that the free market is the last great hope for the economic survival of us all. Without it we are doomed to regressive socialist, communist, neo Keynesian, fascist and oligarichal forms of control over our economic lives.

However there is one place in which I believe Libertarians and free market advocates often fail it is in the area of applying their personal morality to their consumption. The example I am using here is free speech, but without too much imagination it could easily be applied to the myriad other moral failings of modern corporations.

Free speech is under constant attack, our right to offend and the acceptance of being offended have taken a back seat to a autocratic PC culture that limits language, thought and the flow of ideas. It especially limits discourse of repugnant or illogical ideas. Dangerously giving them legitimacy.

The perpetrators of this, have yes, been state and government actors. But more than that there has been a self regulation by social media companies. Facebook and Twitter especially.

The libertarian response has been to say “these are private companies, their house their rules.” But this is akin to saying “coca cola put arsenic in every 10th can, but that’s their company.” Its a abuse of the market position we would not accept in any other industry.

So why accept it? Being libertarian or being pro free market is the acceptance of freedom with responsibility. We do have a responsibility to our own morality. History shows that regulations and bans do not work, but consumer preference does, therefore we need to ask more of our companies. We need to speak to the better, responsible part of ourselves. If we cannot do this then we are coming ourselves to a life nanny corporatism. Where like in some free market east Germany, we will regulate ourselves, private individuals limiting each other. That is a future I choose not to live in and I hope you would agree with me that it is not one you would like to live in either.