The Chief’s Thoughts: Debating colonialism is hate speech?


I wrote an article this week for Business Day about the African National Congress’ shocking call for the Premier of the Western Cape in South Africa, Helen Zille, to be prosecuted under proposed new hate speech laws because she tweeted that colonialism was not “all bad.” Jordan B. Peterson in Canada – recently interviewed on South Africa’s own Renegade Report – has made the topic of hate speech relevant in libertarian circles. However, the proposed changes to Canadian law pale in comparison to what the new Hate Speech Bill in South Africa provides; making nearly any offensive or confrontational speech of any kind, criminal.

Of course, many black intellectuals, including former president Nelson Mandela himself, have expressed views similar to that of Zille, being the obvious truism that not all legacies of colonialism are of necessity bad or detrimental. However, what sets Zille apart is clearly the color of her skin. Her crime in this case, is being white. Here you have an empowered African woman – the governor of a province – being threatened with prosecution by the ruling party because she dared make a factual statement. Feminists, however, are silent, as is custom when white women are being ‘marginalized.’ South Africans are more concerned about our finance minister’s sacking as our President tries to capture the treasury for himself – but ignoring the precarious status of freedom of speech in this country is dangerous.

America’s tradition of free speech is often balked at in South African intellectual spaces. The ‘absolutist’ nature of the First Amendment is regarded as out-of-touch with modern realities where people’s sensitivities are increasingly seen as important conditions to protect by law. But here at Being Libertarian, we thrive on disregarding sensitivities – especially those of fellow libertarians! In my weekly thoughts as Editor in Chief of Being Libertarian, I will share with you some of the interesting news and opinion items I found on the web throughout the week, as well as my opinion on some notable articles on Being Libertarian.

The Chief’s Picks

Things I found interesting on the web this week.

Is Free Speech Good for Muslims? – Mustafa Akyol – New York Times

“Muslim opinion leaders have to decide where they stand. Do we Muslims want a free world with universal principles in which everyone, including us, lives according to their own values? Or do we prefer a segregated world where whoever grabs power imposes their values? And, if we choose the latter, what is going to protect us from all the Geert Wilderses of the world? In fact, what makes us any different?”


Steve Bannon Dismisses Austrian Economics – Jeff Deist – Mises Institute

“Finally, there’s the old “not living in the real world” chestnut. How many times have libertarians heard this one? All around us are the almost unimaginable benefits of markets, cooperation, and technology, yet somehow we’re naïve if we don’t want to funnel human activity through government cattle chutes. The vast material and digital abundance we enjoy every day is provided without any state apparatus, in fact in spite of that apparatus. Is this private world not part of reality?”


How French “Intellectuals” Ruined the West: Postmodernism and its Impact, Explained – Helen Pluckrose – Aero Magazine

“Equally, Foucault’s argument that knowledge is historically contingent must itself be historically contingent, and one wonders why Derrida bothered to explain the infinite malleability of texts at such length if I could read his entire body of work and claim it to be a story about bunny rabbits with the same degree of authority.”

The Chief’s Opinion

My thoughts on the columns published at Being Libertarian this week.

The Problem with Saying Taxation is Theft – John Engle

I don’t believe there can be any debate about the fact that taxation is, indeed, some form of theft. The meme going around nowadays shows several panels to illustrate this, with the most clear equivalent being the fact that it is consent which separates rape from ordinary intercourse. However, this principle is not ordinarily applied to taxation, when it should be. There might be necessary instances of taxation, but that does not render it ‘not theft.’ But I agree with John’s point that making ‘taxation is theft’ our slogan is a bad idea as far as marketing goes. If we wish to grow as a movement, we need to introduce potential converts gradually to the ideas which underpin our philosophy.

Until next week

South Africa seems to be on the road toward fully legalizing private recreational use of marijuana. I’ve never smoked it or otherwise used weed, nor do I plan to, but living in a country often referred to as the ‘Rape Capital of the World’, I’d much rather have our inept police force focus on fighting violent crime. But the Constitutional Court will need to confirm the High Court’s ruling of unconstitutionality, and I treat the Constitutional Court with great circumspection, as it has done its fair share of overruling pro-freedom rulings from lower courts and endorsing the statist position instead. So we’ll see what happens!

Enjoy your weekend!

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Martin van Staden is the Editor in Chief of Being Libertarian, Rational Standard, and Champion Books. He has a law degree from the University of Pretoria. His articles represent his own views and beliefs, and not that of any of the organizations he is involved with.