Democracy and freedom

'Advanced democracies are not overthrown, there are no tanks on the street... instead their institutions are imperceptibly drained of everything that once made them democratic... the rhetoric of democracies will be unchanged, but it will be meaningless, and the fault will be ours.’ - 2019 Reith Lecture.

Almost every time we ask parliament to solve social problems for us by writing laws, we lose some personal choice and quell public discussion. I think New Zealand needs more freedom for people to speak and even to some extent insult people. Rowan Atkinson (of ‘Mr Bean’) described the ridiculousness of a man in England being arrested for calling a police horse 'gay'.

Many democracies have problems with excessive censorship, including Europe, which New Zealand parliament is imitating. Democracies rely on public discussion to identify and solve problems in a way that is satisfactory to most people. If we censor or ignore people (or topics, like race or gender) we exclude them from democracy. If we let people talk and participate, it is like a steam release valve on a pressure cooker - it keeps everything together. The more fragmented and intolerant society becomes, the more we must allow people to talk.

Andrew Clow, Te Puna.

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