Ilya Somin • January 2, 2010
A standard argument for government regulation or prohibition of private sector activities runs as follows: Individuals or businesses are dong something harmful and/or immoral. Therefore, the government must step in and ban it, or at least regulate to restrict it. A standard libertarian response (also sometimes used by liberals) is that, in a free society, people often have a “right to do wrong.” Even if it’s wrong to engage in racist speech, the government should not enact hate speech laws because even evil racists have a right to self-expression. My GMU colleague Bryan Caplan points out that this is often not the only or the best strategy for defending liberty:
Libertarians often highlight “the right to do wrong.” We are often morally obliged to tolerate the wicked and foolish behavior of others….