I believe in the freedom of speech and I’m sure you do as well. If there is a foundation stone to the edifice that is America, I guess it is freedom of speech and of the press.
But I’m having problems. Problems of definition and wonder if we haven’t allowed freedom of speech to be hijacked by every special interest that comes down the pike. We are a nation of lawyers and lawyers have done us well and done us not-so-well, construing and mis-construing, applying and mis-applying the avalanche of law that spills out of our state and national legislatures.
An example; is the freedom to spend money the same as free speech? Political Action Committees (PACs) will tell you so and yet I’m damned if I believe in a freedom that takes away my other (and more precious) freedoms.
One definition of a political action committee is a ‘political group that is not formally related to a particular political party, but is associated with other groups.’ Fair enough. But unfair enough, PACs are allowed to give money (or solicit money, if that is their aim) to candidates so that they can be elected.
Well, that’s way wrong. Money is not speech.
If I have an interest in getting you elected, I ought to be able to speak on your behalf without anyone stopping me. That’s an almost uniquely American privilege, but very different from my going out and buying you unlimited TV time so that either you or I can talk endlessly from the tube. Somehow, our legislators (the same guys who get the free TV) wrote laws that allow me to do that and somehow the courts have decided that not allowing the purchase of that TV time would be an infringement on the right to free speech.
That’s not only nuts, it keeps us from getting good people in politics. Therefore it limits choice. It also keeps the guys who are in, in and the guys who are out, out. What kind of free government is that?
This misinterpretation of free speech allows the NRA to keep our Congress awash in gun money, even though 70% of the public want automatic weapons taken off the streets. It keeps incumbent politicians in office, no matter how corrupt and incompetent they are, so long as they remain un-indicted. It allows pharmaceutical companies to control the pricing and distribution of prescription drugs. It facilitates almost any trampling of the public will by almost any company that can afford almost any price to be represented by almost any lobbyist.
And it’s bought us the worst representative government money can buy.
The problem is that in the case of our Congress, the inmates are also the keepers of the keys. Until that changes, or until a Jack Arbramoff blows the cover on some really big names in government, we’re going to have policy set by money alone. The sad fact is that honesty cannot survive in the mudslide of special interest money sloshing around the halls of Congress.
It makes me smile to hear top business executives shed crocodile tears that they have one hand tied behind them internationally by our federal law that no company can engage in foreign bribery. The overpowering success of American business globally refutes that silly claim. It merely proves that we need not engage in foreign bribery, when bribery at home has been so productive.
If it were only money, we could probably weather this cycle of government by corporation. Many people claim that is only money and that the price we pay in terms of disillusionment means not a thing when we’re on a roll and they argue that we are on a roll.
Some roll! I see it coming unhinged among those who were most strident in their argument;
conservatives at the throats of fellow-conservatives. The churchgoers among us are appalled at the strident rhetoric that makes a mockery of representative government.
The governing party that only recently strode across a world stage with such confidence is coming apart at the seams. Every move now a disaster, every statement exposed as a lie, every hypothesis disproved, we have bribed and colluded ourselves into paralysis and claimed it to be the founding freedom of our heritage.
The freedom to lie, the freedom to coerce, the freedom to corrupt . . . the freedom of speech.