Since 1982, the last week of September has been designated as ‘Banned Books Week,’ celebrating the freedom of the press. The unlimited right to print ideas and opinions, no matter how radical or controversial, is a foundational liberty in Western-style democracies.
It’s worth thinking about a definition: what do we mean when we say a book is “banned”? Generally, the word is defined this way -
A book is banned if it is illegal, and punishable by law, to write, print, publish, distribute, sell, buy, own, or read it.
Put simply, that means that the police will arrest you, and a court will sentence you, if you do any of those things.
Significantly, a decision to omit a book from a particular library or school is not the same as “banning” it.
Today, in the United States, there are no banned books. In fact, there are more books available than ever before, thanks to the Internet.
Many of them are even available for free, if you’re content to have an electronic copy and not a physical copy.
The police do NOT go to booksellers like Amazon, or to bookstores like Barnes and Noble, to inspect which books they sell. Those businesses are free to sell whichever books they choose.
We celebrate Banned Books Week because the United States is one of only a few countries in the world which has this great liberty. Frankly, you can print almost anything you want on paper.
It’s important that we appreciate this freedom, because we want to preserve it for future generations.