Freedom of Speech in the West: A Comparative Study of Public Law in France, the United States, and Germany

By Frede Castberg | Go to book overview

Chapter Six
THE STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH

1. The ideological justification for the demand for freedom of speech

1. The teleological argument. As an argument for freedom of speech in America one encounters first and foremost the view that freedom of speech is a necessary condition for the well-being of society. In his struggle against the Mc Carran Act of 1953, when he used his power of veto in vain, President Truman said in his message to Congress: "In a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have. And the reason this is so fundamental to freedom is not . . . . . . that it protects the few unorthodox from suppression by the majority. To permit freedom of expression is primarily for the benefit of the majority because it protects criticism and criticism leads to progress."1

Among lawyers this view of social purpose is completely dominant. In the world of lawyers the classical formulation is the one given in some of Justice Holmes' famous statements, especially his dissent in the 1919 Abrams case: "But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe, even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct, that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas--that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,

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1
Quoted from Chafee: The Blessings of Liberty, p. 138.

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