Theories of Free Expression

Theories of Free Expression
What is your impression?
John Milton Areopegitica 1644
“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue
freely according to conscience, above all liberties…”
“… open marketplace of ideas…”
“…self-righting process…”
Critics of the “marketplace of ideas”
• Are citizens sufficiently rational to choose truth
over falsehood?
• What about those too poor to contribute to the
• Media doesn’t want to offend… so marketplace is
John Stuart Mill “On Liberty”
If we silence an opinion, we may be silencing the
• A wrong opinion MAY contain the grain of truth
needed to secure the whole truth…
• Commonly accepted opinion may not be truth but
simply a prejudice that the public tends to hold until it
is forced to defend it…
• Unless commonly accepted opinion is contested from
time to time, it loses it vitality and its affect on conduct
and character…
First Amendment
of United States
Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting
the free exercise thereof; or abridging
the freedom of speech, or of the press;
or the right of the people to peaceably
assemble, and to petition the
government for a redress of grievances.
Free expression
Freedom of Expression Theories
Preferred position balancing
Ad hoc balancing
Authoritarian control
• Absolute or complete barrier to
• Louis Brandeis: “Only remedy for bad
speech is more speech.”
• If you limit any speech it means you
fear it may be right
Preferred position balancing
•Free expression is the most important
•When rights come in conflict--scales are
tipped toward freedom of expression
•Does not trump all other rights… just most
other rights
Ad hoc Balancing
• Free expression is just one important
• A separate decision should be made with
regard to all different kinds of speech
• No predictability on what right will win
Authoritarian Control
• People may not be intelligent enough to
understand the power of bad speech so the
government should control
• Control over speech will protect people and
keep peace
• Decisions are easily made: Government will
determine whether speech is acceptable
Determining your theory of
free expression
• In groups/outline strengths and
weaknesses of four theories
Please review:
Videos to make you think…