Book chapter on Freedom of Speech



“Democracy and Free Speech: A Normative Theory of Society and Government”


by John L. Hodge


Chapter 5 of The First Amendment Reconsidered, ed. B. Chamberlin and C. Brown (Longman, 1982)



This chapter redefines what free speech means in a democratic society.

Long before the landmark case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was decided, this chapter addressed the reform needed to prevent wealth from controlling politics. This reform requires rethinking the meaning of the First Amendment.

Had the United States Supreme Court understood this needed reform, it would have decided Citizens United differently.

But much of the groundwork underlying Citizens United had already been laid years before. This chapter criticizes those decisions of the United States Supreme Court that thwart legitimate attempts to reduce the influence of wealth on the electoral process.

This quote is a partial summary of the chapter:

"In this essay, the democracy principle has been postulated as the basic premise of a desired society. A society based on this principle must contain a basic right of free speech distributed equally among its citizens. That right is intimately related to the goal that each citizen have an equal right to determine the nature and actions of government. The right is not a mere freedom from governmental interference but is a right against government that government affirmatively act to maximize the diversity of certain political forms of speech. At the core of this right is speech involving political communication relevant to ballot issues. The extent to which government fails to carry out these duties is the extent to which the democracy principle fails to be effective.”


ORDER THE BOOK that contains this chapter:

The First Amendment Reconsidered: New Perspectives on the Meaning of Freedom of Speech and Press.