Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Constitution Day, Alexander Micklejohn

Publishing a monthly newsletter for the WSBA World Peace Through Law Section has, as a great side-benefit, the requirement that I learn about new and interesting subject every four weeks.

Today is Constitution Day and, by coincedence, doing the newsletter made me research Alexander Meiklejohn, who turns out to have been a champion of our First Amendment!
Each newsletter highlights a presentation by the Section along with relevant quotes and links. Since this time we're hosting a presentation by Professor and Attorney Ann Fagan Ginger of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, naturally I thought, "Hunh, who is this Meiklejohn? Did he or she say anything quoteworthy?"
In more than forty years of writing, Meiklejohn championed our First Amendment rights as necessary to protecting the very possibility of free self-government.
“Freedoms secured by the First Amendment – speech, press, religion, petition, and assembly - are absolutely indispensable for the preservation of a free society in which government is based upon the consent of an informed citizenry…”
”Free Speech and Its Relation to Self-Government”

I often find free speech uncomfortable, in particular when it's reichwing liars frightening old people with Death Panels and illegal aliens. However Meiklejohn's argument against Holmes' "Clear and Present Danger" standard is pretty interesting.

And in the internet era, it's proving to be much better to let clods and liars say anything they want, and the drown them with the facts. On today, Constitution Day, let us call for more heckling and less "Free Speech Zones"!

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