Free Hearing Versus Free Speech

The U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down a law limiting corporate spending on political advertising. Quite a few people, especially on the left, worry that big business will now take over Washington. While special interest politics is certainly prevalent and has a negative impact on policy today, I doubt the problem will worsen significantly. Also, I do think this type of advertising is included in the fundamental free speech concept. By using a different term — free hearing — Robin Hanson shows why.

Consider also that we call it “free speech,” not “free hearing.”  The usual rationale for “free speech,” which seems persuasive, is that in the long run we as a society learn more via an open competition for the best ideas, where anyone can try to persuade us as best they can, and listeners are free to choose what to hear.  Yet that concept would best be called “free hearing” – a freedom to hear and evaluate any case presented, based on any criteria you like (including cost).  It is not a right to make others listen to you.

“Free hearing” would apply not just to hearing from adult citizens in good standing, but also to hearing from children, convicts, corporations, robots, foreigners, or demons.  We wouldn’t argue if corporations have a right to speak, but rather if we have a right to hear what corporations have to say.

The whole post is very insightful.


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