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For Courts, Some Types of Speech Are More Free than Others

July 10, 2007

Tags Legal System

Should you be allowed to put a "For Sale" sign on your own car?

Most people would say yes, but some local governments say no — and the courts approve this because somehow "commercial speech" is deemed less worthy of protection than political speech. Never mind, of course, that political speech about issues typically involves advocating the use of violence against one's neighbors, while political speech about candidates is almost always false advertising. Commercial speech, on the other hand, typically involves nothing more than buyers providing potentially valuable information to consumers. (On this, see Mises.)

I comment on this issue, and a recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision that slightly increases protection for commercial speech, in an op-ed in today's Columbus Dispatch.

For this blog's readers, I should add the caveat that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution should not apply to state and local governments. This point is well covered in The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution, which I highly recommend. But that issue is probably a lost cause, and in any event is not before the courts right now. The question is whether "free speech" includes, by definition, the right to speak without limitation about goods you want to sell, using your own private property. And the answer — which of course the U.S. Supreme Court is unwilling to understand — is yes.

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