Jonathan Rauch’s Kindly Inquisitors was first published over 20 years ago, yet his incisive defense of free speech remains as relevant as ever. A new audiobook from the Cato Institute features Rauch’s work as read by another well-known defender of free expression: Cato Institute H.L. Mencken research fellow Penn Jillette, of the Emmy-winning magic and comedy duo Penn & Teller.
Jillette brings Rauch’s work to life in a lively, passionate rendition that reflects Jillette’s own love for the book. “I’m a free speech nut, but this book defended free speech in a purer and more honest way than I’d ever considered,” said Jillette. “It is such an important book that I knew I had to read it again and very carefully to get as much out of it as I could.” He added that he “really enjoyed the challenge of trying to make the audio as clear as the written text.” Jillette has spoken often in the past on the topic of free expression — in a recent edition of Cato’s Letter, he told the story of how his belief in freedom of speech actually led him to libertarianism.
In the book, Rauch contends that a free society needs the free exchange of ideas, and the conflict of differing opinions, in order to pursue truth and knowledge. “A liberal society stands on the proposition that we should all take seriously the idea that we might be wrong,” he writes. “This means we must place no one, including ourselves, beyond the reach of criticism; it means that we must allow people to err, even where the error offends and upsets, as it often will.” For his part, Jillette said he hoped listeners would come away with “not just the intellectual understanding of why speech we don’t agree with should be allowed, but a visceral feeling of why we should want speech we hate to be heard.”