Free speech roundup, campaign and political speech edition

  • “New legislation aimed at curbing foreign influence in U.S. elections also appears to be aimed at curbing Americans’ influence in U.S. elections.” [Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown and Scott Blackburn of the Institute for Free Speech on SHIELD Act]
  • “Everyone always talks about how much money there is in politics. This is the wrong framing. The right framing is… why is there so little money in politics?” [Scott Alexander]
  • Free speech advances other freedoms: “Frederick Douglass’s “Plea for Freedom of Speech in Boston”” [Law and Liberty, Kurt Lash introduction] The very idea of a gay rights organization once seemed unthinkable in America, and might have remained so “in the absence of a strong and particularly libertarian First Amendment.” [Dale Carpenter, SSRN and Volokh Conspiracy summary]
  • “That unlimited right to lobby the lawmakers who make decisions that affect your life, your family, and your fortune is one that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) thinks American businesses should not have.” [Peter Suderman; Bradley Smith and Luke Wachob, NRO] A federal appeals court says an independent Missouri activist doesn’t have to register as a lobbyist to talk to lawmakers [Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown and Zac Morgan of the Institute for Free Speech]
  • “Every Democrat in the Senate Supports a Constitutional Amendment That Would Radically Curtail Freedom of Speech” [Jacob Sullum] Same bunch “Still Fundraising Off Citizens United, Still Wrong About What It Means” [Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
  • “Essentially, L.A. has passed a law saying people with one interest in a decision by the council can support candidates, but the other side can’t.” [Christian Britschgi, Reason on city’s ban on contributions by developer but not anti-development interests]


  • Regarding the law L.A. passed :

    What’s the difference between that law and one in which a legal substance can’t be advertised, yet the companies that make and sell it must pay for advertising which is anti-substance? (Yes, I mean the tobacco “settlement”.)

    • One may agree to terms in a legal settlement that Government may not impose without consent.
      This is why it’s so important to elect State Attorneys General that won’t engage in lawfare against disfavored but law-abiding entities.

  • Senate Democrats’ “Democracy for All Amendment”–

    ‘SECTION 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.’’.

    I would like to see a “disambiguation doctrine” for Constitutional Amendments: If part of a proposed constitutional amendment contradicts the rest of it, the Amendment should be considered a nullity. Amenders should not be able to mislead the electorate with deliberately misleading and confusing sugar-coating.

    For the proposed “Democracy for All Amendment,” Section 3 should be held as cancelling out Sections 1 and 2. To make sections 1 and 2 effective, amenders should either drop section 3, or rewrite it to make clear what parts of society should retain “freedom of the press” rights previously belonging to everybody.

  • Corporate money in politics–

    From the libertarian center-Right, I have mixed feelings. We assume that business donations will support market capitalism. In reality, however, business donors are often more interested in monopolies and other rent-seeking.

    French economist Thomas Philippon recently wrote a book partly on this subject, The Great Reversal: How America Gave up on Free Markets. While European markets have gotten more competitive in recent years, American ones have gotten less so, as buy-outs create monopolies and oligopolies in major industries, and monopolized industries capture their government regulators. For example, Americans pay much more for phone and Internet connections than Europeans do.

    Would it be feasible and worthwhile to restrict corporate money generally, while allowing anonymous corporate donations to pro-market and pro-capitalist PACs that would not match up donors with corrupt favors?.

    I trace the brain-death of today’s GOP in part to bad decisions in the mid 1990s. Newt Gingrich captured the House in 1994 with his “Contract with America,” a worthy list of minor reforms partly cribbed from Ross Perot’s 1992 Presidential campaign. With their new power in 1995, House Republicans bullied businesses to give fewer contributions to Democrats (“Defund the Left!”) and more to Republicans.

    Repayment fell due in the 1996 campaign season. It was time for Newt to offer a new “contract,” but he could not come up with anything that would not offend his new donors. Holy warriors promoted an authoritarian platform, but there were still enough libertarian leaning Republicans to block it. Libertarians lacked the power to push their own ideas, however. Result– no 1996 “contract.” Republicans were able to eke out continued control of the House with paranoia, ideological muddle, anti-intellectual talk-show hosts, and lots of money, but at a price that would finally come due in 2016.