24 January 2010

The principle of the thing

Amid all the hyperventilation over last Thursday's Supreme Court ruling about corporate political-ad spending, has it occurred to anyone that perhaps the reason the restrictions were struck down is that they were actually unconstitutional?

I'm no expert on Constitutional law, but the First Amendment's guarantee of free expression has always been interpreted quite broadly (thank goodness), applying to far more than just literal "speech" or the literal "press". That's why things like radio, movies, video, and blogs are covered, though the authors of the First Amendment could never even have imagined such media. It's hard to see how spending money on advertising to advance a political viewpoint could fail to be covered as well.

Yes, the actual effects of the ruling will be more bad than good (though note that it empowers unions as well as corporations) and it will complicate efforts to reduce the influence of money in politics, but it probably won't make much difference. The courts are supposed to rule on the basis of protecting Constitutional guarantees, not on the basis of whether the effects of the rulings are good or bad. The same principle that gave us this ruling also gave us Roe v. Wade, Loving v. Virginia, Kitzmiller v. Dover, etc., all of which remain the law of the land even though the rightists bitch endlessly about "judicial activism". That principle has to be upheld even when it's our side that doesn't like the results.

7 Comments:

Blogger tnlib said...

The ACLU supported the decision as have several others who have plenty of expertise in the field, which I don't. BJ emailed me a copy of an article by Spitzer defending the decision.

24 January, 2010 18:50  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

The ACLU is a good judge of such issues. They stand up for priciple regardless of which ideology benefits.

24 January, 2010 19:37  
Blogger B.J. said...

Thank you for always being the voice of reason! I have tried to say this, but wasn't terribly successful with some of my liberal friends. BJ

25 January, 2010 00:20  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks BJ -- I'm glad there are others who get this.

25 January, 2010 04:42  
Anonymous Frodo, visiting from another planet, said...

When the foundling fathers drafted the game plan for our national Super Bowl contender (the current opponent being the Chinese) they did not, as you wisely observe, foresee the technology that now embraces the freedom of expression. Concomitantly, they failed to visualize firearms that could do something more than fire a single shot from a single barrel without reloading. The result being that the threat to life itself is heightened by tolerance for technologically advanced weaponry. To Frodo, it follows that the Second Amendment now threatens the greater constitutional promise.
Frodo, who, likewise, is no attorney (by the grace of God), no longer feels the Bill of Rights to be quite so sacrosanct as he once did. That is, unless we wish to return to the technology of the Time.

25 January, 2010 07:48  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Well, I'd hate to think that free-expression guarantees didn't extend to any communications technology invented after 1800.

Oh, and China is only the latest of those "opponents".

25 January, 2010 08:05  
Blogger mendip said...

It is unfortunate that all too many people feel that matters of speech and press should only be open to those they agree with. I've always felt that any law restricting such freedoms, no matter how noble its advocates appear to be, will sooner or later be used against them. For me personally, it is not just a matter of tactical or strategic politics, (which is all the current debate really gets down to), but of my own survival in a (relatively) free society.

25 January, 2010 08:59  

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