Why do we need freedom of speech?


We need freedom of speech so we can do a variety of things like criticize the government, talk about science and philosophy, and more. We don’t need freedom of speech to threaten, to harass, to lie, to defame, to defraud, or anything like that.

It turns out that even though we have an amendment to the constitution that says Congress shall make now law abridging the freedom of speech, we do have laws that prohibit certain kinds of speech and we do recognize that judges can tell people when to talk and when not to talk in court proceedings.

One perspective is that the common sense laws are unconstitutional. Another perspective is the founders were living in a society where there was already common law and judicial practices that effectively limited speech in similar common sense ways, and they were more concerned about abuse of power by the federal government. Furthermore, the constitution doesn’t restrict the states from enacting laws that restrict speech, so maybe the founders were relying on common sense to be applied at the state level.

Some people say that the 14th amendment makes the bull of rights apply to the states also, but it doesn’t say that at all.

What we need is a right to peaceful and honest speech that applies to all people in the United States and is enforceable against states and the federal government. Such a right would clearly protect what needs to be protected, while allowing — in accordance with the amended constitution this time — laws to be enacted to prohibit the obviously harmful things that we’ve already outlawed unconstitutionally.

If we create the right to peaceful and honest speech, then who use misinformation to manipulate the public could be held accountable for exactly that, and people who threaten and harass can be held accountable for exactly that. It would be right there in the name — the right to peaceful and honest speech. If it’s not peaceful and honest, it’s not protected. That’s easy to explain and simple to defend, and works fine with common sense laws, and doesn’t require any mental gymnastics making up things in the 14th amendment that aren’t there.

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