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L. Neil Smith's
Number 656, February 5, 2012

"It's always been a police just never noticed."

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Reputations, Free Speech, and Assholery
by Ann Morgan

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

I have a question for the general readership here, which nobody has been able to answer to my satisfaction.

Consider the following possible, perhaps, inevitable situation, under a Libertarian system. Somebody commits an act against me which I find to be extremely emotionally distressing, not to mention the act of a complete asshole, but the financial compensation offered to me by a Libertarian court system, seems very small to me in comparison with the emotional distress the act has caused me.

To give a hypothetical example: Suppose I have a pet duck, which I have raised since it was a baby, and of which I am very fond. Now, a neighbor of mine, after an unsuccessful duck hunting trip, rather than confess his failure, comes into my yard, kills my pet duck, and shows it off to his buddies as his 'hunting trophy'.

I take my neighbor to court, and the court system compensates me for the value of the duck, perhaps $25.00, plus another $25.00 rent for the time he spent in my yard, which I consider to be a pittance considering the distress this has caused me.

My question is this: Is there any good reason why I could not publicize in any manner I see fit, including talking to people, paying to have articles printed in newspapers, or even putting a commercial on television about it (provided the owners of the newspaper and TV station are agreeable) regarding the pet-killing act of my neighbor, provided I restrict myself entirely to the truth, thus getting compensation in whatever damage to his reputation this might cause?

The people I have talked to about this do not seem to like the idea very much, but can't give me a good reason why I could not (under a libertarian system) follow such a course. I fail to understand why I shouldn't be able to pursue such a course, it seems to me that preventing me from doing so is a violation of my freedom of speech. It may be that there is some other moral reason(s) why people should be morally required to conceal the acts of assholery committed against them, but I can't think of what those reasons would be.

If anyone has any reasons why a person should not be allowed to speak or print the truth, merely because that truth is inconvenient or unpleasant to certain people, I would like to hear them, but it seems to me that that's a dangerous path to follow, as any such principal would almost certainly also be applied to any truths that a politician found unpleasant or inconvenient.

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