"Censorship and Book Banning Cannot Be Justified"

Essay by coolmask123High School, 12th gradeA+, November 2004

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Democracy is founded on the principles of autonomy of the individual and faith in the competency and fundamental rational nature of all human beings. Using these principles as the major premises of my argument, I will attempt to demonstrate that censorship and book banning are impermissible because they violate the freedoms necessary for preserving democracy and the liberty that accompanies that democracy.

According to traditional democratic theory, as described by leading American theorist Robert Dahl, an ideal democratic process must satisfy certain essential criteria--one being enlightened understanding. Enlightened understanding requires that the citizens are well educated. Free press and free speech are critical to civic understanding. Citizens must have open access to all ideas so that they may come to a deep understanding of critical issues. In order for the public to properly form opinions and make decisions, it must be well informed on all sides of a particular issue.

Therefore, for a society to be considered democratic, it must be a free marketplace for the open exchange of ideas (Edwards 14-15).

In John Stuart Mill's classic work, On Liberty, he argues, as I do, that protecting freedom of speech is of vital social importance. Freedom of speech is invaluable because it provides human beings with securities against oppression by allowing them to use their natural faculties of reason and logic to develop their own beliefs--this way, the public cannot be manipulated by biased information. As rational human beings, each person has an unalienable right to freedom of _expression without fear of punishment. For these reasons, censorship is intolerable because it jeopardizes democracy by not allowing the public free access to knowledge, which is essential to preserving the liberty characteristic of a true democracy.

Censorship violates humanity's natural autonomy in that it denies an individual an uninfluenced choice in...