Assorted First Amendment links

A federal appeals court based in Philadelphia held that citizens have a First Amendment to record on-duty police officers. Eugene Volokh recites key portions of the case, Fields v. City of Philadelphia, in the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy blog. The Atlantic applauds the decision as a “significant milestone” in First Amendment law. Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation pointed out that the court’s decision may be limited in three ways. Slate summarizes the real-world impact of the decision: “Bystander videos may not eliminate police misconduct. But they play a vital role in our national debate about the lawfulness of law enforcement.”

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Free speech, menu labeling, and the $100 cup of coffee

How much would you pay for a cup of coffee? Two dollars? Twenty dollars? How about a hundred?

You’re less likely to buy a cup of coffee if the price jumps from two dollars to twenty. Your chances of purchasing the beverage are even lower if the price skyrockets to a hundred dollars. This is basic economics: as the price rises, demand drops.

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Censorship’s sinister sister

Imagine: Congress enacts two laws to tilt the next election in favor of Joe Smith. The first law forbids voters from speaking poorly of Smith. Typical censorship, and neither you nor a court would hesitate to say that the law violates the First Amendment.

Now consider a second law. This law doesn’t prevent voters from saying anything. Instead, it requires voters to express their support for Smith by placing a “Vote for Smith” sign in their front yard. Does this second law threaten your right to free speech, just as much as law number one?

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