Ronald Coase’s First Amendment
Among his many interests, Ronald Coase was curious about how commercial advertising fit into First Amendment jurisprudence. Noting that the First Amendment protects “the freedom of speech,” Coase puzzled over why most jurists and scholars assumed that commercial advertising was not entitled to the same constitutional protection as other forms of expression. Indeed, invoking the standard justifications for the constitutional protection of free speech, Coase could discern no principled basis for the lesser degree of protection traditionally accorded commercial advertising. In his writings, Coase speculated that this doctrine could not be justified in terms of the standard reasons for protecting free expression, but was more likely the product of the particular values and biases of those who made the law. This article examines Coase’s thinking about the First Amendment to test both the wisdom of the insights and how the Court itself evolved over time in its understanding of First Amendment doctrine.
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