Court allows abuse of First Amendment

By Tibor Machan

The Supreme Court ruled May 23 that to compel people to support its propaganda with which they disagree does not violate the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The First Amendment is the one about everyone having the right to freedom of speech.

Yes, the court acknowledged, no one may be coerced into funding some private party’s advertisements or related speech. But when the government or some part of it decides it will proselytize for something, it can make us all fund it.

Justice Scalia, writing for the majority in the 6 to 3 decision, explained: “Compelled funding of government speech does not alone raise First Amendment concerns.” He added: “Citizens may challenge compelled support of private speech, but have no First Amendment right not to fund government speech.”

Of course, since government has come to be legally authorized by court after court to take money from people for whatever the government’s agents want to fund, why would it not then extend this same legal authority to fund propaganda?

After all, government supports National Public Radio, PBS, Voice of America and umpteen public-service messages, many of them contrary to what millions of American citizens want supported. And, of course, thousands of government projects are funded despite the disagreement of millions of Americans.

In short, this is nothing new. But it is a case that makes it clear and unambiguous that we aren’t free to spend our resources for our purposes, and that government may rob us to fund theirs.

Why? Well, the theory is, the government is us. Once the election is over, the administration and its hooligans may spend away at their hearts’ content since this isn’t a free country but a tyranny of the majority.

In a free country, in contrast, there would be nothing aside the protection of our individual rights that government would be authorized to have us all fund. That, as the Declaration of Independence stated with no ambiguity at all, is why governments are instituted among us: “To secure these rights (those listed in the Declaration, ones we all have and need protected).”

Because that is the only true public interest, the legal authorities of a free society would be justified in spending funds on advancing it. That is what we would pay the government to do, freely, by being citizens of the country.

Supporting various special-interest projects, such as promoting beef eating, has absolutely no relationship to such a bona fide, genuine public interest. But, because the original idea of what government is supposed to do has been totally corrupted by now, and because one of the main forces of this corruption has been the Supreme Court, it is hardly any wonder why this same court reaffirmed government’s legal authority to loot us all of our resources so as to promote yet another pet project the government’s agents have cooked up.

As reported in The New York Times, “Justice Scalia’s opinion was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Clarence Thomas and Stephen G. Breyer,” while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg concurred separately, saying she viewed the assessments in all the marketing cases as ‘permissible economic regulation.’”

As an aside, this bit about how such spending amounts to “permissible economic regulation” is poppycock. The commerce clause, of Article 1, Section 8, which empowers Congress “to regulate commerce … among the several states” meant nothing like this mess of government intervention the court has been rationalizing for decades now. It meant “to regularize commerce,” which had been irregular because the different colonies didn’t share a common free market.

The whole point was only to eliminate barriers to the free flow of commerce, not to empower Congress to act like some fascist or socialist economic planning agency.
Alas, if there were any integrity left to the Supreme Court, we could perhaps hope for some liberty in our future from that corner, but that hope was squelched a long time ago.

Tibor Machan advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper. E-mail him at
Machan@chapman.edu