Thursday, May 18, 2006

Veni, Vidi, Vinci - I came, I saw, I banned

There have been a lot of protests in the blogosphere about the Da Vinci Code ban. Nothing much anew. Most of them take the familiar line of attack on the "freedom of expression." One good situational reason why we shouldn't ban is provided by Nitin's Laughingstock. That you are adhering to fair principles provides high competitive value to nations (And their consequent economic development) in today's scenario. And of course Gawker puts across the sheer irony of it as only he can.

But there is a larger lesson behind the event. The difference between the rule of law and rule by law.

A rule of law will impose restrictions on the powers of the state on certain non-negotiables like freedom of expression. A rule by law may be fair in the sense that it is applicable to all but may still falter on the premise that it curtails non-negotiables. And gives powers to certain groups to exercise it. China is an extreme example of rule by law. India may not have it as bad as China but is very often on the slippery slope leading to the same route of rule by law.

What may be little understood is the over-riding importance of economic freedom over civil freedom. Freedom of expression is a civil freedom. The ability to do (in this case, screen) what you want on a private property is an example of economic freedom. Only economic freedom can allow sustain civil freedom. I am reminded of the Indian Express story during the Emergency days when it was sought to be curtailed on economic grounds (something to do with regulation of newsprint) thus effectively muzzling civil freedom. But apparently, Indian Express acquired newsprint from other sources and continued its tirade. For a more elaborate account of economic freedom and civil freedom in the media during theemergency days, read the Indian Mass Media System: Before, During and After the National Emergency.

A civil freedom will give you the freedom of expression. But without the economic freedom to sustain your "voice" you will lose your civil freedom. And I see that story again being repeated in the less-known case of community radio in India. Read a gutsy tale about it here. And now they have a blog about it as well.

For a good overview of how economic freedom, civil freedom and rule of law intertwine, the article Central Role of Economic Freedom in Democracy should be helpful.

Gaurav Sabnis's deceptively subtle post
A Bit About Reservations shows how rule by law over-rides rule of law. In this case, how a decision of the government is exercised in denial of private property rights. Though applicable to all and sundry, it still violates a fundamental freedom. I wasn't aware of the 104th amendment. Must look it up. But do read Gaurav's post here.

Labels: , ,

Back to the Top

Back to the Top