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Defense of Free Speech Essential, Speaker Says

By Rebecca M. Wand, Contributing Reporter

All expression must be defended whether it be valuable or harmful, Princeton University Professor George Kateb told an audience of more than 100 at the Kennedy School of Government yesterday afternoon.

Although much expression is "worthless or harmful," governmental regulations would inflict more harm than good, said Kateb who is also director of Princeton's Program in Political Philosophy.

"There is a greater harm in going to the government than in being insulted by your fellow citizen," he said.

The scholar said governmental regulation of expression would lead to an over-dependence on federal authority.

Unrestricted freedom of speech allows worthless and offensive expression to proliferate, he said. But regulation of hateful speech might eventually lead to regulation of other expressions, such as religion, he said.

Kateb discussed the relative merits of advertisements, political rhetoric and religious expression. The lack of agreement about these forms of expression makes toleration for necessary, he said.

He advocated dealing with offensive statements in ways other than going to the government. "Civil courage" and learning to put the expressions of others in perspective, he said, must replace governmental intervention.

"I want to defend almost unrestricted freedom of expression," he said.

The only exceptions to freedom of expression should be extreme libel and child pornography, Kateb said.

Kateb's lecture, which was followed by a reception, was one of a number of talks sponsored by the Harvard University Program in Ethics and the Professions.

Kateb, author ofThe Inner Ocean: Individualism and Democratic Culture is well known for tackling such issues as nuclear deterrence and problems of representative government.

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