Sunday, January 11, 2015

Stepping Into the Crosswalk Without Looking

By Jim Fedako

First, the obligatory, “I do not support the attack directed on Charlie Hebdo.”  I do, though, agree with Robert on his analysis regarding the greater situation (SEE: I Condemn 'Charlie Hebdo' and French Prime Minister Declares ‘War’ on Radical Islam)

Ohio law provides me with the legal right to enter a pedestrian crosswalk, regardless of oncoming traffic. Ohio law also mandates that drivers have the legal obligation to stop whenever I step between the white lines. Yet, my wife still warns me not to enter crosswalks without considering traffic.

I typical respond, “They have to stop for me. Let one of them hit me and I’ll win big in court.” 

To which my wife correctly notes, “It may be your estate that wins in the end.”

I have a moral right to free speech. I also have a minimal constitutional right as well. But the two are not the same. The Constitution is a supposed constraint on government, while my moral right is a constraint on those around me.

As sold to citizens over 200 years ago, my constitutional right to free speech is plenary – I can say anything I want against the government, without an expectation of reprisal. Of course, that was always a dead parchment. And what remains of constitutional free speech is limited at best. Additionally, trust me on this, neither US nor French politicians have any desire to reestablish abrogated rights – ever.

That said, free speech as a constitutional right only exists with regard to my speech against government. It is not akin to a crosswalk.

However, I also have a moral right to free speech. Morally, I can say anything on my property, or on the property of others, should they sanction that speech. This is akin to the crosswalk. I can stand within the white lines, so to speak, of my property and say whatever comes to mind (short of statements that are aggressions themselves – refer to Murray N. Rothbard for a complete discussion of speech and aggression) without someone having the right to physically assault me.

Yet, just as stepping into the crosswalk without considering oncoming traffic is risky, so is making statements that I know will greatly offend my neighbor. Say the wrong thing, either once or repeatedly, and the expected result is the likely result.

Sure, I would win in a just court system should someone hit me inside the crosswalk, and I would also win in a just court should someone assault me due to my speech. Nevertheless, regardless of the outcome before the court, I am injured either way.

If you want to exercise your moral right to free speech by repeatedly insulting and inciting others, do not expect me to fund your security 24/7. Similarly, I do not expect you to fund assured protection so that I can exercise my legal right within the white lines. If you or I want to push and risk, we are each on our own.

The attackers of Charlie Hebdo received their just reward. But the dead will remain dead.

Note: There are hosts of other discussion points concerning the attack, especially with regard to drivel from politicians on both sides of the Atlantic vis-à-vis rights to free speech, constitutional or otherwise. The hypocrisy is glaring, and expected.

Jim Fedako is a business analyst and homeschooling father of seven, lives in wilds of suburban Columbus, Ohio. He occasionally writes at and

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