The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has used her power to exclude an individual, Julien Blanc, from our shores on the grounds that his presence is “not conducive to the public good’’.
In addition to the excellent case against this decision made by Tiffany Jenkins (Perspective, 22 November), I think it is important to remind ourselves of the reasons that John Stuart Mill gave for freedom of opinion and of speech.
First, to silence an opinion is to assume our own infallibility, since, for all we know, that opinion may be true.
Second, even though the silenced opinion may be an error, nevertheless it may contain a portion of truth – for, rarely, do we have the whole truth on any matter. Third, even if we do have the whole truth, if it is not vigorously and earnestly contested we are in danger of holding it as a mere prejudice, with little feel for its rational grounds.
Fourth, as Mill says so eloquently, “the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction from reason or personal experience’’.
Whatever the rational powers the Home Secretary has for judging the merits or otherwise of Julien Blanc, I too would value the opportunity of gaining those powers for myself.
Muir Wood Grove