Universities and other Institutions - not Hate Speech Laws - are a Threat to Freedom of Political Speech

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One of the strongest arguments against hate speech legislation is the so-called Argument from Political Speech. This argument problematizes the restrictions that might be put on political opinions/political critique when these opinions are expressed in a way which can be interpreted as “hateful” towards minority groups. One of the strongest free speech scholars opposing hate speech legislation is Ronald Dworkin, who stresses that having restrictions on hate speech is, in fact, illegitimate in a liberal democracy. The right to express oneself freely concerning any political decision is, according to Dworkin, a core democratic principle; it is what self-governance – and hence liberal democracies – are built on. Dworkin and many other (American) free speech scholars see hate speech legislation as a threat to expressing oneself freely and critically. I argue that Dworkin and other American free speech scholars tend to overlook actual hate speech legislation in countries where laws against hate speech have been implemented and have functioned for decades. Furthermore, I argue that the real threat against political speech lies not in hate speech legislation but rather outside of the law, namely, in private institutions such as Universities, museums etc. Restrictions on political speech in various societal circumstances have been on the rise through the last decades – first and foremost in America. I analyse why these restrictions on political speech are more wide spread in the only Western country without laws against hate speech than in countries with implemented hate speech laws.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-19
Number of pages15
JournalEtikk i praksis
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2022


  • free speech
  • hate speech
  • universities
  • political speech
  • USA
  • Europe
  • hate speech legislation


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