(an unrelated cartoon because I couldn’t find a funny one on free speech)
The Supreme Court just ruled that certain restrictions on campaign donation limits are unconstitutional. Without going into a lengthy legal discussion, this ruling basically allows people to individually donate more money to political candidates. The right is praising the decision as protecting freedom of speech, while the left is deriding it as opening the floodgates to rich people buying elections and corrupting politicians.
First, I don’t think there is any need for alarmist rhetoric based on this one case alone. The Union will survive if rich people can spend more money in political campaigns, or if conversely the court were to uphold campaign finance restrictions. Things tend to never be as good or bad as politicians claim they will be.
Secondly, I agree with the Supreme Court. . We as Americans accept that speech is not limited to words coming out of someone’s mouth. Speech and the press includes things like opinion blogs, TV commercials and wearing black armbands to protest the war in ‘Nam. We also accept the fact that while free speech has its downsides such as hate speech, the only thing worse than bad speech is restricting speech through laws telling you what you can say (except in cases of speech causing “clear and present danger” of course).
I will admit that the idea of money as speech has downsides- the biggest being the fact that people with more money can afford to buy a commercial on TV expressing their opinions while poorer people cannot afford such measures. But this is an unavoidable predicament if we value free speech and things have always been this way. People of wealth and privilege naturally have “more speech” than a commoner in a free society. Ben Franklin himself used his position as the owner of a newspaper to spread his opinions, and even modern day liberals such as Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews must admit that their positions as prominent television hosts give them way more “speech” than a humble blogger such as myself. So if TV networks and anchors can use their power and money to spread their beliefs in a biased way, why can’t the Koch brothers or George Soros? If I myself were wealthy should I not be able to use my own money to promote this blog?
If you follow the logic of the left, I should not be able to promote my blog as much as I want because I am expressing political opinions and trying to influence elections in favor of conservative candidates. Much of the left even argues that a book should not be able to be published 6 months before an election if the book has political speech in it that is trying to influence an election. Is book censorship really something that a free society should do? Do we want to live in a country where, in the name of democracy, the government can censor our speech because they deem it “political”? There is a special type of irony here that is often the product of big government.