Freedom of speech, of the pen, of the press, of the blog. Those of us who have the freedom to express our minds must guard it as the precious treasure it is.

There are so many on this earth whose governments fail to understand their proper job. The only legitimate purpose of government is to protect the right of each human being to his life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness. That very broad formulation includes – most importantly and fundamentally – the right to use one’s mind honestly and to express oneself honestlywithout being subject to legal punishment. I said “honestly”, which doesn’t guarantee by any means that the honest mind will always be correct in its content or its judgments. But human beings need to be able to seek the truth, make errors, and self-correct. We need to be able to communicate our ideas with others, to discuss and argue,to trade information,etc., without fear that some Big Brother will forbid and punish us when he doesn’t like what we have to say. In doing so we are able to refine our grasp of reality, weed out our mistakes, and over time improve our understanding of whatever it is we care about.

This liberty of expression is what enables mankind to improveon knowledge and bury superstitions and errors as a society. Closing off that liberty closes off hope of significant improvement.

How does a government do its proper job of protecting each person’s life, liberty, property and pursuit of happiness? It bans the initiation of physical force and the perpetration of fraud. It leaves peaceful people free to live as they choose and to state what they believe.

One of our world’s regimes that does not understand its proper job is the government of Egypt. Recently it has stepped up its persecution ofEgyptian bloggers. We’re not talking about terrorist bloggers who believe in blowing people up if they don’t toe the Islamist line. (I don’t know whether terrorists have been included in the round-ups or not.)We’re talking about writers who are simply critical of flawsof their own leaders, of unjust laws, of the kind of issues that we in the West blog about all the time without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or whatever else awaits a free-thinker ina rights-unconscious country.

My favorite blogger, the Egyptian Sandmonkey, who has kept himself anonymous for quite a while,has now been sprung. They know who he is. Security agents have been hanging around on his street, and asking questions about him. He no longer feels it is safe to continue to blog.

I suppose he hopes that if he quits his unapproved activities, they will leave him alone. Maybe that’s all they want – just to make him stop.

Well, he’s stopped.

Sandmonkey’s blog is still there, for now, stagnant except for the stream of comments and protestsfrom well-wishers. I don’t know whetherthe website will remain up, as an archive for Sandmonkey’s many fans’ enjoyment. I hope so. But I’ve saved a number of his entries that I especially enjoyed. If he is forced to remove his blog entirely, perhaps I can post some of his old articles in a special section on SydneyKendall Says.

Meanwhile, if you are living where you can make jokes about your country’s top leader, criticize government policies and the prevailing religion, and cheer for liberty, remember that that right of expression is not the norm in many countries around the world. Remember that that right’s preservation requires our alert attention and dedication, because there are always people who have ugly reasons to want to put a lid on honesty.

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