13 Nov '13     home | previous

Justice Scalia's Money and Free Speech

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has said, "You can't separate speech from the money that facilitates the speech. It's utterly impossible."

Money is money, speech is speech. The two are not one and the same. But how closely are the two connected? Money gives one power, in a small amount at least the power to buy oneself food to eat. With money, people are free also to create newspapers, websites, magazines or print fliers, with which they can express their views. It can be said that newspapers have political influence and therefore some informal political power. Because we value and uphold free speech, we refrain from putting restrictions on newspapers and other media. But the issue that Scalia was facing was direct monetary contributions to politics.

Bribing politicians is already illegal – despite Scalia's scholastic-like equation that money is free speech. Justice Scalia was holding to the US Constitution prohibiting "any law" that abridges "the freedom of speech." (Nowhere in the US Constitution does it say money equals free speech.) His equation that money equals free speech, like other simple epistemological equations (e.g. God equals nature), needs an explanation.

Scalia's position has another problem. It denies society (people) the freedom to draw a line in political ethics.

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