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The traditional liberal argument for free speech is now under fire from several directions. Critics from the left, the center, and the right find simplistic the claim that unregulated expression promotes the search for truth, the protection of self-government, the autonomy of individuals, and the control of concentrated power. Even if free speech does serve these values to a considerable degree, there are costs associated with liberty, costs the critics say are not sufficiently recognized in the standard liberal accounts.

As a general matter, but especially regarding the freedom of speech, liberalism is seen as too doctrinaire, too optimistic about human capacities and intentions, too complacent, too inattentive to questions of responsibility and virtue. It is condemned, moreover, as elitist in its regard for intellectual inquiry and disregard for faith, affection, tradition, security, and sense of place. The liberal view of the First Amendment is said to ignore the badly skewed distribution of communicative power, the impact of technology, and the potential severity of nonphysical harms.


First Amendment | Law


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