Free Speech is Money

You know the saying that time is money. Free speech is money, too.

The surest way to restrict someone’s freedom of speech is to prohibit their ability to spend money on getting their word out. Mass communications is expensive. For example if I wanted thousands of people to read this article, I’d have to pay hundreds of dollars to promote it on Facebook or Google.

A disingenuous government official could tell me I have freedom of speech, because I’m free to write this article. At the same time that official could say I can’t spend any money promoting it, knowing full well that few will read it without such promotion. That’s not freedom of speech. That’s severe restriction of speech.

Sure, I could stand on my street corner and shout my message through a bullhorn. But only .0001 percent of the population or less would hear it. For real freedom of speech, I would need to buy airtime on radio or TV in order to disseminate my message. That costs money. A lot of it.

Those against freedom of speech in America are the ones clamoring for additional campaign finance restrictions. They want to deny people access to mass communications, and therefore are trying to limit how much one can spend thereon. That’s particularly alarming, given that when one refers to the virtue of freedom of speech, one is mainly referring to freedom of political speech.

Denying certain people access to mass communication is grossly unfair, because others enjoy such access all the time who aren’t in danger of getting their speech curtailed. They include op-ed writers of the New York Times. What makes them more special than someone who wants to spend a million dollars on mass communications in order to try to reach the same number of people that a NYT op-ed writer reaches? Op-ed writers aren’t any more special.

Just as we certainly shouldn’t be restricting op-ed writers’ freedom of speech, we shouldn’t be restricting anyone else’s freedom of speech either.

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