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Argument paper for american political science - Essay Example

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Freedom of speech is an essential doctrine within a liberal democracy. Without the right to express one's viewpoints regardless of content, it would be impossible to guarantee an open and informed public discourse that is necessary to make informed and objective decisions regarding political representation, association, and economics, just to name a few…
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Argument paper for american political science
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Download file to see previous pages As important as freedom of speech is to facilitating liberal public discourse in a democracy, there are certainly limits that most democratic countries have considered reasonable to place on that right. Freedom of expression has been subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions designed to accommodate the dissemination of ideas in a way that does not hurt people or threaten the security and well being of society. Lewd and obscene, profane, libelous or slanderous expressions are all categories that have been considered ripe for government regulation in liberal democracies. So-called "fighting words," those aimed at inciting violence or breach of peace, have also been restricted (Beauharnais v. People of State of Illinois, 1952). One cannot, nor should they reasonably expect to be allowed to, yell "fire" in a crowded theater when no such emergency exists. Such limitations on speech are consistent with the spirit and intent of the First Amendment, which arguably was intended by the Framers of the Constitution to protect a free and open public discourse from government intrusion. This essay goes on to discuss these and other reasonably acceptable limitations on free speech in liberal democracies.
Restricted Speech under the First Amendment
There is a vast body of American jurisprudence that addresses the extent to which the government can constitutionally abridge speech and other forms of expression. The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment numerous times, and in so doing has clearly defined the scope of the freedom of speech and the extent to which government may limit it. In summary, the general rule is that all speech is presumably protected unless the government has an important, substantial and content-neutral interest in limiting it, and that limit is narrowly tailored to the interest. According to the Supreme Court, "Government regulation of expressive conduct is sufficiently justified if it is within the constitutional power of the government, if it furthers an important or substantial governmental interest, if the governmental interest is unrelated to suppression of free expression, and if the incidental restriction on alleged First Amendment freedoms is not greater than is essential to furtherance of that interest" (Barnes v. Glen Theater, Inc., 1991).
That general rule raises a host of other questions around what is meant by "important" or "substantial" interest, what is considered a "content-neutral" restriction, etc. All of these more miniscule issues have been addressed by the Court. Ultimately, at least in the United States' version of liberal democracy, the government has been able to regulate speech under many circumstances when doing so furthers legitimate and reasonable interests. Such forms of expression as pornography, commercial speech (advertisements), political campaign donations, and others have been reasonably restricted within the U.S. These kinds of limitations are arguably appropriate and necessary for an ordered society in which a balance is sought between the need for openness and free thought and expression, and the need for people to be able to live comfortably and securely.
Liberal democracy is not anarchy. It does not mean that people can say or do ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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