Monday, June 25, 2012

John Stossel on freedom of speech and corporate money in politics

John Stossel has a fine post on liberal/progressive intolerance for freedom of speech. He notes the liberal fury at the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision, in which the Court found that political expenditures by corporations (and unions) are constitutionally protected free speech.

Excerpts:

Asking government to regulate political speech is a poisonous idea. Politicians naturally think that people who challenge their power should be restrained.

... political (and religious) speech is exactly what the Founders were eager to protect when they wrote the First Amendment. 
... The New York Times said the [Citizens United] decision "strikes at the heart of democracy." The Washington Post quoted someone saying it "threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions." 
Please. 
The swing justice, Anthony Kennedy, was right to say: "When Government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful." 
He also said, "Political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it." 
The American Civil Liberties Union agreed, but most progressives condemned the Supremes for "judicial activism." I thought progressives favored free speech. I was wrong.
One need not be a fan of corporations to see that restricting anyone's speech is dangerous. One government lawyer said that even corporate-funded books favoring candidates could be illegal...
But the progressives' campaign goes on. The Supreme Court right now is revisiting this issue because Montana's Supreme Court ruled that Montana can ban corporate spending on state politics. Sens. McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse filed a friend-of-the-court brief claiming that allowing corporate speech would bring a "strong potential for corruption and perception thereof." 
Right, as though politicians don't routinely constitute a "potential for corruption" all by themselves. 
It is shameful that leftists let their hatred of corporations lead them to throw free speech under the bus. There is a smarter way to get corporate money out of politics: Shrink the state. If government has fewer favors to sell, citizens will spend less money trying to win them.

The government has no business regulating political (or religious) speech. That is the clear meaning of the First Amendment. The fact that people speak as a group (a corporation or a union or a school district) makes no difference. The federal government has no more right to limit the speech of Exxon/Mobil or your local school board than it has the right to limit the speech of The New York Times or the Democratic Party.

Ironically, liberals are responsible for the most corrupting aspect of corporate money and politics. The growth of government and the extension of government interference into myriad aspects of the economy and our private lives makes organized efforts to buy influence in government policy inevitable.

The best way to keep corporate influence out of politics is to minimize government involvement in corporate matters, so there are no favors to buy.  

15 comments:

  1. Oh, Stossel. What a kidder.

    "I thought progressives favored free speech."

    You DID?!!!!!

    "I was wrong."

    Just a little.

    Joey

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  2. The biggest stumbling block to liberals comprehending this decision is that, once again, they don't know what the Constitution says and they don't care.

    Here's what they think it says: "People have a right to free speech. Unless it's hateful, or mean, or racist, or hurts the feelings of a protected group."

    From this flawed premise, they reason that corporations don't benefit from this protection because corporations aren't people. Which is true, but it's also irrelevant because that's not what the Constitution says.

    What it really does is restrain Congress from making laws that restrain speech.

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech..."

    What it's saying is that Congress may not censor. If Congress is censoring, that's unconstitutional, whether it's censoring Citizens United, Planned Parenthood, the Elks Club, or Joe Citizen standing on the street corner. Liberals think that it matters who's being censored but actually it doesn't.

    Congress may not censor. Congress may not censor in a box. They may not censor with a fox. Congress may not censor in a house. Congress may not censor with a mouse.

    So stop trying to censor people. Show us what good liberals you are and tolerate ideas you don't like for a change.

    Joey

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    Replies
    1. "Show us what good liberals you are and tolerate ideas you don't like for a change."

      That's why I don't call them liberals. I call them leftists.

      There's nothing liberal about liberals and nothing democratic about Democrats.

      TRISH

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    2. From this flawed premise, they reason that corporations don't benefit from this protection because corporations aren't people.

      Actually, in many ways legally they are, and have been treated as such since before the founding of the U.S.

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    3. Congress may not censor. Congress may not censor in a box. They may not censor with a fox. Congress may not censor in a house. Congress may not censor with a mouse.

      Actually, they can, and in some cases, do. Like all the rights enshrined in the Constitution, the right to free speech isn't absolute. Broad and far reaching? Yes. Absolute? No.

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  3. Great video on the religious freedom issue. It's short but inspiring.

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/new-video-slams-obama-on-religious-freedom-we-refuse-to-beg-for-our-constitutional-rights/

    Why do liberals hate our constitutional rights so much? They invent rights that aren't in the Constitution and trample on rights that are.

    TRISH

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  4. Smoking the Jesus Crack has addled your already weak minds. What a sickening bunch of pathetic corporate toadies.

    The American Revolution was fought to rid ourselves of the economic domination of British corporations. From the time of our founding and for the next hundred plus years corporations where controlled by the government to a degree that would blow your garbage filled minds. Corporate Charters where granted for limited times, and very often revoked for corporations operating beyond their charted purpose, breaking the law, or causing public harm.

    The Founding Fathers where not only happy with the state of affairs, they insisted upon it. To think that the Founding Fathers would be happy with the Robert’s Court granting citizenship rights to corporations is absurd.

    Of course you can probably find a conservative website in moments that will refute everything I said, that is the nature of modern propaganda. I’m getting really sick of the constant display of sheer idiocy by conservatives. You might as well get nose-rings and leashes to save your masters a few bucks.

    -KW

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    Replies
    1. @KW:

      The American Revolution was fought to rid ourselves of the economic domination of British corporations.

      I think it's fair to say that the Declaration of Independence summarizes what the American Revolution was all about. Evan a casual inspection of that document yields words and phrases such as:

      political bands
      Governments, Form of Government, Systems of Government
      King of Great Britain
      Laws [not corporate by-laws, but political laws]
      Governors [again, political, not corporate]
      Charters [yet again, political]
      Legislatures, Legislative powers
      Judges, Judiciary powers
      Head of a civilized nation [i.e. "the present King of Great Britain"]
      etc.

      Even a close inspection yields no reference to corporations or similar legally-recognized commercial entities. The American Revolution was not fought to rid ourselves of the economic domination of British corporations, but rather to remove ourselves from the political domination of British government.

      The Roberts court did not grant citizenship rights to corporations; it merely (and correctly) recognized the previously-recognized rights of the individuals who constitute a corporation. The court ruled that, in general, the constitutional rights inherent in an individual citizen must logically and legally inhere in any collective or aggregate of individual citizens.

      I’m getting really sick of the constant display of sheer idiocy by conservatives.

      It's difficult to take your criticisms seriously, KW, since your grasp of the elementary facts seems feeble at best.

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    2. I didn’t say that we fought the revolution solely because of British Corporate domination, but you’re more than willing to interpret it as if I did and key in on that one aspect of my comment. You simply ignore my pointing out that the founders put into place an anti-corporate system that was vigorously protected for a century. Typical and predictable.

      Corporations aren’t even close to being associations of like minded citizens. They are more akin to dictatorships by 51% of the owners, which can be very few people indeed. They aren’t speaking on behalf of their workers; they are only acting to maximize their monetary gain. The multinational character of modern corporations ensures foreign nationals have a say in the governance of “American” corporations.

      The conservative cabal at the Supreme Court has turned the constitution on its head and our founders are no doubt spinning in their graves as the Supreme Court does literally everything big business wants.

      -KW

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    3. "I’m getting really sick of the constant display of sheer idiocy by conservatives."

      KW, I'm sure we will always be idiots in your mind. So you have a choice. You can keep tuning into the inbred morons on this blog, or you can give yourself a break from us and spend more time with your friends at Democratic Underground. If you're sick of us, that's fine. Pay us no mind. Stop wasting your valuable time trying to elevate buffoons like us out of our ignorance. It's a futile endeavor.

      JQ

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    4. @KW:

      I didn’t say that we fought the revolution solely because of British Corporate domination...

      No, you didn't, just as I didn't say that that the colonists revolted solely to remove themselves out from under political oppression. But certainly political oppression was the primary reason. Corporate oppression would have been far less of an issue in their minds. And most of the teeth in corporate oppression would have been due to pathological "government involvement in corporate matters" (as Michael rightly points out) -- which brings us right back to political oppression.

      You simply ignore my pointing out that the founders put into place an anti-corporate system that was vigorously protected for a century.

      I was simply restricting my remarks to one apparent misconception of yours. We can move on to others, if you like.

      It has been, and always will be, a proper and legitimate role of government to deter, and to the greatest extent possible, eliminate economic predation. The depravity of man is such that some subset of any given population is always taking unfair economic advantage of others. It is government's duty to address this evil. (I speak of government in general, considered ideally. It should be true of all government, in all nations, at all levels, from national on down to local.)

      Obviously, economic predation is not restricted to corporations. An individual acting alone (say, a grifter who bilks senior citizens out of their retirement savings) can prey just as effectively as a large corporation, albeit on a smaller scale. Nor should we ignore the fact that government itself, if it goes astray, can force the citizenry to participate in economic programs that, if conceived, promulgated, and administered by civilians, would land those civilians in jail.

      The problem is not corporations; the problem is people. To the extent that corporations engage in economic predation, they should be deterred by government. But, in principle, such deterrence would be no different than a sheriff arresting a con man for swindling his neighbor, or the citizenry of a town from ousting a corrupt administration (whether by ballot or by force).

      In other words, it is not a proper role of government to be anti-corporation. It is a proper role of government to be anti-economic-predation. To eliminate economic predation, we don't target corporations as such, but rather we target economic predators wherever they are found: individuals acting alone, or individuals acting collectively within any sphere, whether it be corporate, governmental, or otherwise.

      I submit that what you call the founders' "anti-corporate system" was not aimed at corporations in general, but specifically at corporations behaving badly due to evil actions by individuals. The founders had no axe to grind with corporations, any more than they had an axe to grind with government.

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  5. As a complete outsider, I didn't feel that I had the right to comment, but I've reconsidered...

    I've heard that the upcoming presidential election is going to cost around $700 million dollars in campaigning. Good for the media, but it means that unless you're rich or have a lot of rich friends, then you don't have much chance of running.

    Your chances of becoming a candidate for one of the major parties depends me on your ability to be acceptable to the major backers and founders of your party than your actual policies and competency.

    The founding fathers didn't predict that communications would develop as it did. They probably thought that future Americans would continue to receive their information via small newspapers and word of mouth.

    When Lincoln was elected, he did his campaigning by ... staying at home, and having his supporters do his campaigning for him in the various states and communities. Even in 1860, the idea that you had to have a lot of money to win was anathema.

    Political systems evolve, not always to the benefit of its citizens.

    As an outsider, I think that the most sensible solution would be to publicly fund election campaigns and to limit private expenditure and to make the candidates produce ideas rather than sound bites.

    Freedom of speech often becomes freedom to tell lies. Did the 'Swift Boats' of 2004 turn out to be true or not?

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    Replies
    1. You're not a complete outsider, Bachfiend. You've been here many times before. And then there was that one time you had a hissy fit and said you were never coming back here again. We had a party! But then you did come back, just to see if we were missing you yet. (We weren't.) Then you claimed that you were only going to continue to follow this blog until the end of May, which was...almost two months ago now. Since that time, you've assumed the mysterious name of anonymous and you continue to slink around Egnorance like a vagrant.

      I have a feeling that you forgot to log out before you came over here and you never intended your screen name to appear. Stimmt dass?

      The Torch

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    2. The Torch,

      Bestimmt nicht.

      I used 'bachfiend' because I'm commenting anonymously, just as you are. I looked at this blog, because I'm fascinated that someone as intelligent as Michael Egnor can write such a lot of very (incredibly) stupid things.

      Chris Mooney in his book 'the Republican Brain' explained it, so I thought, since I've got the answer, it's no longer necessary to waste my time.

      The answer involves the 5 dimension personality scale OCEAN (openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism). Liberals TEND to score high in openness (to new ideas, to see nuances, to see the world in shades of grey instead of black and white) and low in conscientiousness, whereas conservative TEND to score low in openness and high in conscientiousness.

      There's no trend in the other scales. Conservatives tend to be agreeable because they're polite. Liberals tend to be agreeable because they score a little higher in empathy.

      But, I admit, Michael's blog is addictive. It usually doesn't take long to read. His 141 threads in April was an anomaly, but he didn't actually say much. Very few people read his blog, or at least, not many comment on it (often with only single digit comments).

      If it weren't for people like me, Michael's blog would be an echo chamber. Admit it. If you didn't have someone to disagree with, would you read it (perhaps you would).

      Bloggers such as PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne often get hundreds of comments in a day, so many I don't make the effort to read any of them.

      Delete
    3. The Torch,

      And by the way, it should have been nicht 'stimmt dass', sondern 'stimmt das'.

      Dass is a conjunction, meaning 'that'. Das is the pronoun meaning 'that'.

      Delete