Recently, Reason Magazine reported that staffers at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has a long history of defending freedom of speech rights, signed an open letter defending speech restrictions.
Claiming the organization’s stance is “rigid,” the group of staffers say that the advancement of racial justice is undermined by ACLU’s decades of putting principle before politics.
While the Reason report also notes that conservative New York Times writers have also twisted their principles in an article calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment, what is perhaps truly shocking is that ACLU’s staffers are openly criticizing the organization’s history of freedom of speech, urging leadership to put politics before their long-held views.
To most libertarians, the very notion that principles are the foundations for a sound political philosophy is quite clear. But to those who subscribe to different political views, principles are seldom discussed.
Too often, party politics will change depending on the times. And, as volatile as parties can be, so are those who follow them. When you put principle over everything else, you have a compass by which you can live by, a moral guide that will help you decide whether you agree or disagree with a particular stance and not by simply listening and following partisans but by using your intellect and by measuring the problem at hand against your personal set of principles.
When such a well-established organization such as the ACLU begins to lose its principles, it also loses its effectiveness at being just.
While the ACLU has been engaged in cases in the past that go against property rights, it’s always been clear that when it comes to pro-freedom of speech legal activism, ACLU has always been at the top of the food chain. Once it loses its moral compass, it will also lose its effectiveness as it will lose many followers and supporters who always admired the group’s principled stance.
As individuals, we have a great deal of freedom when it comes to formulating and following our own set of principles. Still, many of us will settle with following whatever their friends, family, or party of choice believe. Learning more about libertarianism and about politics and political philosophies as a whole can give you the certainty that you’re not just following a trend, you’re actually formulating your own set of principles and checking your biases against them on a regular basis.
That’s why it would be a great loss if the ACLU does go along with the group of staffers who are now calling for an end to principle over politics. If anything, this change would inspire others to do the same.