Freedoms Depend On Public Opinion

“The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends on public opinion,” George Orwell wrote in “Freedom of the Park.” “The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.” (Hat tip, David Remnick, The New Yorker.)

I know countries that have good, strong laws “on paper” protecting individual freedoms and workers rights, but the citizenry do not have a tradition of acknowledging these rights or a full understanding of these traditions, so they aren’t widely enforced.

We are about to find out how much Americans understand the bill of rights and cherish the freedom of “the other” — do people unlike yourself, who have different religious or political or social views — deserve the same freedoms that you enjoy?


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