September 25 – October 2 is banned books week. Sponsored, in part, by the American Library Association (ALA) this event raises the very interesting question of the extent, scope, and application of liberty. The ALA uses the following definitions:
“A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.”
Recall Constant’s distinction between liberty of the ancients and the moderns. Here, those who are attempting to have books banned are exercising liberty as the ancients would have understood it. Counter to that the ALA, and other groups, defend the modern liberty to have options that are immune to such political actions. In addition to raising awareness on the modern liberty of free speech, this week also raises the more general issue of liberty in public spaces governed by political participation.