Money Is Not Speech

By Cummins, Michael | Freeman, December 2011 | Go to article overview

Money Is Not Speech


Cummins, Michael, Freeman


"The Supreme Court said that money equals speech!"

Proponents of campaign finance regulation have thrown this trope around freely since 2010's landmark Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. Fortunately, the Court never actually made such an absurd equation. It would be hard to take the Court seriously if it had.

But the phrase is not just a throwaway idiom. For those who push the idea to the public that the Court has ruled as such - opinion leaders who should (and maybe do) know better - the phrase serves to caricature the Court's reasoning on campaign finance issues vis-à-vis the First Amendment. And the last thing America needs is to misunderstand the Court when it is actually doing its job: protecting constitutional freedoms from a meddlesome Congress.

The widespread mischaracterization likely stems from an earlier widespread mischaracterization, that of the ruling in Buckley v. Valeo (1976). Buckley overturned restrictions on independent political spending by citizens and associations, and on candidates' personal spending. A shocking number of scholarly texts and newspaper citations assert that in Buckley the Court ruled that "money is a form of speech." (Even Wikipedia's opensource entry for Buckley claimed this at the time of writing.)

In Citizens United the Court went beyond Buckley, ruling that the federal government may not limit corporate or union spending on independent political expression. The ruling is consonant with the text of the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause, "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech." Note that the clause concerns itself solely with its subject - Congress. The nature of the speaker - individual, group, or corporation - was apparently of no matter to the framers.

But putting aside the merits of the Court's ruling, what relationship does it cast between money and speech?

Though reams of learned text have been devoted to the topic, most economists agree on the very basics of what money is. It is credit for service rendered. Even when we purchase a good, all we pay for is the service of the raw materials having been located, gathered, altered, combined, and then brought to a location convenient to us. If I have a dollar, then I have made a sacrifice (assuming it was not a gift or loot . . . and I'm not a banker!). I expect to be able to use that dollar to induce another person to make a sacrifice on my behalf. Services can exist independently of money, as in a barter system or when we perform a service directly for ourselves. But every service we receive, however it may come to us, requires a sacrifice from someone for its performance.

Consider the interplay of money, service, and sacrifice in the hypothetical case of a young idealist who wishes to exercise his right to free speech.

Speech Isn't Free

He considers walking to the town square to regale passersby with his opinions. But he instead decides to take funds from his paycheck to buy a bus ticket. The result of either plan would be the same. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Money Is Not Speech
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.