Free Speech and Intelligence

Does free speech have good effects?

Chris Dillow is doubtful. Free speech just opens the floodgates to an outpouring of “mindless and often dishonest ventings.” What good it brings come from “the tiny fraction of intelligent expression it permits, rather than to the vast majority of worthless out-pourings.”

That’s probably true: free speech offers a few gems of intelligence, but mostly a dungheap of foolishness.

Still, those gems can be worth the dungheap, if the gems-to-dung ratio is favorable.

(Not to forget that lack of free speech is no guard against an onslaught of mindlessness and dishonesty. Censorship can also build a dunghill of folly and lies.)

But what determines that all-important gems-to-dung ratio?

Presumably, it is the average intelligence of a society. Low average means very few gems per dunghill. High average IQ means more gems per dunghill.

Does all this mean that only in high average intelligence societies is free speech worthwhile? Is it in high IQ nations that a leavening of intelligent expression is able to outweigh the cost of the flood of mindless ventings? Are the benefits of free speech dependent on a society’s average intelligence?

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