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April 20, 2024

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The Importance of Not Cutting Corners in Life

Introduction In the fast-paced world we live in today, it’s tempting to take shortcuts to save time, effort, or resources.…

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The profound assertion by Utah Phillips that “The state can’t give you free speech, and the state can’t take it away. You’re born with it, like your eyes, like your ears. Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free,” encapsulates a fundamental principle about the essence of free speech. This perspective offers a deep dive into the nature of freedom of speech as an inalienable right, inherent to every individual by virtue of their humanity, rather than a privilege granted or withheld by the state. Through this lens, we explore the intrinsic nature of free speech, its significance in fostering a free society, and the individual’s role in defending this fundamental right.

The Intrinsic Nature of Free Speech

According to Phillips, free speech is as natural and inherent to human beings as their senses. Just as one is born with the ability to see and hear, so too is one endowed with the capacity to express thoughts and opinions freely. This viewpoint challenges the notion that freedom of speech is a right that can be granted or revoked by governmental or other authoritative bodies. Instead, it posits that free speech is a fundamental aspect of human existence, deeply embedded in the essence of what it means to be human.

The Role of the State and Society

While Phillips asserts that the state cannot bestow free speech, governments and societies play a crucial role in either protecting or infringing upon this right. The establishment of legal frameworks and protections for free speech is vital in ensuring that individuals can exercise their inherent right without fear of persecution or censorship. However, the true test of a society’s commitment to free speech lies in its tolerance of dissenting, unpopular, or controversial viewpoints. A society that embraces a diversity of opinions, even those that challenge the status quo, demonstrates a deep respect for the principle of free speech.

Individual Responsibility and Resistance

The most compelling aspect of Phillips’ statement is the emphasis on individual responsibility in safeguarding free speech. Freedom, as Phillips suggests, is something one assumes proactively. It requires vigilance and, at times, resistance against attempts to curtail it. The degree to which individuals are willing to stand up for their right to express themselves freely is a measure of their commitment to liberty. This resistance need not always be confrontational but can manifest in the steadfast exercise of one’s right to speak out, the support of others’ rights to do the same, and the pursuit of dialogue and understanding in the face of disagreement.

The Measure of Freedom

Ultimately, Phillips’ perspective invites reflection on the nature of freedom itself. Free speech is not merely a legal or political issue but a litmus test for freedom in a broader sense. A society that upholds the right to free speech acknowledges the inherent dignity and worth of every individual. Conversely, the suppression of free speech is often a precursor to the erosion of other liberties, signaling a move towards authoritarianism and oppression.


Utah Phillips’ profound reflection on free speech serves as a reminder of the intrinsic nature of this fundamental right. It underscores the importance of individual and collective action in defending freedom of expression against encroachments. In recognizing free speech as an inherent aspect of our humanity, we acknowledge that the true guardians of this right are not governments or laws, but the individuals who exercise, defend, and cherish it. The degree to which we resist attempts to infringe upon our freedom of speech is indeed the degree to which we are free.


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