Thought of the Day

“Intellectual freedom is essential to human society — freedom to obtain and distribute information, freedom for open-minded and unfearing debate and freedom from pressure by officialdom and prejudices. Such a trinity of freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of people by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorship. Freedom of thought is the only guarantee of the feasibility of a scientific democratic approach to politics, economics and culture.”–Andrei Sakharov (Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom, in The New York Times, July 22, 1968)

Andrei Sakharov would know. He lived in a country where freedom of thought did not exist, and where the people had been infected by mass myths which were used to prop up a brutal dictatorship. His thoughts and speech were circulated in secret, for they were threatening to the official ideology. For his thoughts and speech, his career was ruined and he was arrested and exiled. Even when he returned from exile, his thoughts and speech were closely monitored and controlled.

And that is the most important reason why freedom of speech, freedom of thought and the competition of ideas must be protected. Yes, the competition of ideas is useful to society by providing beneficial competition which selects the best ideas. But it also serves another purpose. The free flow of information prevents one political group or another from controlling information and tailoring it to support their political ideology. Freedom of thought and speech is vital for maintaining democracy. Without this, no true democracy can exist.

2 thoughts on “Thought of the Day

  1. Riley Matheson Reply

    Well put, Chris.

    In light of your post, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize for my being a bit too harsh in my rhetoric directed at you. Although I still disagree with you on certain things, I honestly never wanted a feud with anyone at the Carolina Review.

  2. cwjones Reply

    No hard feelings. And please do feel free to continue to comment on CRdaily. I feel like the recent debate about Galileo was particularly enlightening and I learned a lot from both sides while reading through it.

Leave a Reply