Our Right to Criticize Governments and Countries,
I wanted to step back a bit from the University of San Diego / Tom Smith / China controversy to make a broader point:
We must always have the right—not just as a legal matter, but as a matter of academic freedom and social mores—to criticize governments: American, Chinese, Israeli, Russian, Saudi, or whatever else.
Such freedom of criticism is necessary so that we can help influence our own governments’ internal behavior. It’s necessary so that we can help influence our own governments’ behavior towards other governments. It’s necessary so that we can figure out the perils that these governments might be posing, to us, to their own citizens, or to their neighbors.
Governments are powerful, important institutions. They need to be constantly subject to discussion, evaluation, and criticism. (The same is also often true as to other powerful institutions within countries, and as to the broad current of public opinion in countries, especially democracies.) Even if it ultimately turns out that the governments are being mistakenly accused, or their misconduct is exaggerated, we can only figure out if we’re free to discuss it.
Of course, go
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