The Timeless Yearning for Censorship

Excerpted from Socialism, by Ludwig von Mises:

Sidney and Beatrice Webb (Lord and Lady Passfield) tell us that ‘in any corporate action a loyal unity of thought is so important that, if anything is to be achieved, public discussion must be suspended between the promulgation of the decision and the accomplishment of the task’. Whilst ‘the work is in progress’ any expression of doubt, or even of fear that the plan will not be successful, is ‘an act of disloyalty, or even of treachery’. Now as the process of production never ceases and some work is always in progress and there is always something to be achieved, it follows that a socialist government must never concede any freedom of speech and the press. ‘A loyal unity of thought’, what a high-sounding circumlocution for the ideals of Philip II and the inquisition! In this regard another eminent admirer of the Soviets, Mr. T. G. Crowther, speaks without any reserve. He plainly declares that inquisition is ‘beneficial to science when it protects a rising class’, i.e., when Mr. Crowther’s friends resort to it. Hundreds of similar dicta could be quoted.

In the Victorian age, when John Stuart Mill wrote his essay On Liberty, such views as those held by Professor Laski, Mr. and Mrs. Webb and Mr. Crowther were called reactionary. Today they are called ‘progressive’ and ‘liberal’. On the other hand people who oppose the suspension of parliamentary government and of the freedom of speech and the press and the establishment of inquisition are scorned as ‘reactionaries’, as ‘economic royalists’ and as ‘Fascists’.

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