Freedom of speech is fundamental to maintaining American political liberty. Increasing government controls over speech-from McCain-Feingold to FCC regulations-are damaging one of America's most important freedoms. To use freedom of speech effectively to change the culture, one must know the proper basis of free speech.
From the colonial struggle against the British imperial system to the tumultuous history of the First Amendment, this course investigates the Alien and Sedition Acts, the slavery debates, the battle over obscenity, and other recent developments. It identifies how the proper defense of freedom of speech has paralleled Americans' understanding and misunderstanding of the proper basis of rights. The course also examines how the concept "censorship" has been corrupted, what "symbolic speech" means for our rights, why property rights and speech are intimately connected, and why modern courts do not understand and cannot fully defend the freedom of speech.
One of the central questions the course answers is why speech seems to be more free in practice but is actually weaker in theory. By investigating the transformation of freedom of speech in the Progressive Era, this course illustrates how the current weak defense of speech focuses only political ideas and not the freedom of communication of all knowledge. The course also includes an explanation of the proper basis of free speech.
This course was recorded at the Objectivist Summer Conference 2008 in Newport Beach, CA.
(MP3 download; 4 hrs., 24 min., with Q & A, 191 MB)