Though I’m busy with packing and preparing to go to Germany, I do want to write a short post on a current topic: Google and free speech in a market economy. Google has been taking a lot of flack recently for some of their decisions regarding speech in the workplace and websites from which they generate revenue. They fired James Damore for advocating positions that they felt detracted from a healthy working environment; after GoDaddy stopped hosting the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer, Google picked up the domain only to also drop it after a few hours; they threatened to pull ad revenue from an alt-right leaning political opinion site because a particular article was written by a former contributor who participated in the “Unite the Right” rally; a far-left site claims that Google is reducing their exposure; and there are many other such accusations of censorship of all kinds.

I don’t think I agree with all the decisions that Google has made regarding censorship. Google also is a monopoly in many ways, which is problematic since monopolies, because they reduce or eliminate competition, are detrimental to human liberty. But, I also disagree with the idea that the market should be amoral, that companies and individuals should not factor their moral convictions into their business and contract decisions. If you believe that something is wrong, you should stand against that thing. If there is something which you firmly believe is evil – gay marriage, neo-Nazism, slavery, and you believe that baking a cake for a gay wedding, or hosting a neo-Nazi website, or investing in an overseas company that uses child slaves, is equivalent to you participating or endorsing those activities, ethically you should not do so, and should not be forced to do so.

Roger Williams was a Puritan and eventually a Reformed Baptist who disagreed with some to the teachings of the Puritans (for instance, he believed that only believing Christians should be baptized, that it was wrong to just take land from Native Americans without paying, and that slavery was evil). He was expelled from Massachusetts for his disagreement, and he ended up founding Rhode Island and Providence Plantations on lands that he was given from the leader of the Narragansett nation. This new colony was based on the idea of religious liberty and the separation of church and state. Williams believed that “God requireth not a uniformity of religion to be enacted and enforced in any civil state; which enforced uniformity (sooner or later) is the greatest occasion of civil war, ravishing of conscience, persecution of Christ Jesus in his servants, and of the hypocrisy and destruction of millions of souls.” I agree with him that to force a particular morality on someone in violation of what the believe is tantamount to raping their soul.

So wait- aren’t I now arguing the opposite, that we shouldn’t exclude people because we find their deeply held beliefs to be offensive? Yes and no. Toleration includes allowing people to take an ethical stance. Google should be allowed to act according to what they believe – I think that the company taking a moral stance is far more admirable than just allowing any evil to flourish. If they believe that by hosting certain content, or employing certain people, or generating ad revenue from an author they morally disagree with, is supporting that evil, then they should be free to not do those things. To say that they shouldn’t be concerned about the content that they support would be to violate their moral conscience.

Yes, it is very concerning when you have a monopoly whose moral stance is a hardship for you. But, rather than chastising such company for being allowed to take a moral stance, chastise such a company for restricting YOUR moral freedom.