The Supreme Court has been vigorous over the past 40 years in extending First Amendment protection to truthful commercial speech. Yet the “scholarly community has, with only rare exception, been either grudging or downright hostile to extending constitutional protection to commercial advertising. Most, although not all, scholars believe that protecting commercial speech trivializes what the First Amendment is truly about,” endangers vigorous regulation, “and risks diluting the strong protection traditionally given to more valuable areas of expression.” In this new Cato Institute policy analysis, Martin Redish of Northwestern University School of Law undertakes a defense:
…the question of protecting such speech should not be in doubt. Controversy comes from a failure to recognize how commercial speech furthers the values implicit in the First Amendment’s guarantee of free expression. To show how commercial speech advances free speech values, I adopt a “perspectives framework” for First Amendment theory. First Amendment values are appropriately viewed from four different perspectives: the speaker perspective, the listener perspective, the regulator perspective, and the rationalist perspective. Subsequently I will show how protecting commercial speech advances freedom of speech from each perspective; in contrast, rejecting or reducing constitutional protection for commercial speech contravenes the reasons each perspective values free speech.