The Uses and Abuses of the First Amendment


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

Related Post Roulette

9 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    You have the right to wear a T-Shirt that says “Mustache Rides Twenty-Five Cents”.
    You do not have the right to force Mom & Pop’s T-Shirt Factory to print up a T-Shirt that says “Mustache Rides Twenty-Five Cents”.

    A few short years ago, I would have had the energy to write an essay discussing Negative vs. Positive Rights theory.


    Good post.Report

    • Avatar gregiank says:

      @Jaybird, FWIW i have heard many people not understand that the 1st only stops the gov from infringing on free speech. I’ve got some very surprised looks when i told people business can do whatever they want.Report

  2. Avatar JosephFM says:

    …this is different from, say, South Park, how exactly?Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Real people, for one thing. You can make a cartoon character say whatever you want.Report

      • Avatar JosephFM says:

        @Jason Kuznicki,

        So why all the outrage when the gigantic corporation that funds them occasionally balks? Or are t-shirt printers somehow more entitled to make these kind of than Viacom or Fox?

        (Note that strictly from a moral standpoint, I would say “yes”, but mostly because of the existence of Comedy Central shows that offend me personally more than South Park…)Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:


          I find all the difference in the world between freely exercising the right not to speak — and self-censoring because of credible death threats. The outrage comes from the threats, doesn’t it? (Maybe not with Scientology, but they can be unpleasant to deal with in other ways.)Report

  3. People often confuse the inalienable Right to Free Speech with the alienable right to be free of the consequences of saying something stupid.Report

  4. Avatar Rufus says:

    It is funny: the first amendment says the government cannot abridge your freedom of speech; it doesn’t say, “Hey, you’re American. Say whatever you want to whoever you want and tell them to suck it!”Report

  5. Avatar Austin Bramwell says:

    This is unintentionally hilarious. The designer sets out to challenge the boundaries of decency and … the very first thing he is does is define what the permissible boundaries will be! I.e., racism and sexism are verboten. Depend upon it, if you really wanted to see how much speech people are willing to put up with, the one thing you would do is make an overtly racist joke. Apparently too craven to do anything like that — on the feeble excuse that there’s plenty of overt racism out there already (yeah, right — we live in a culture where a hallmark card that says “black holes” gets pulled from the shelves) — the designer instead has mother theresa doing it doggy style. Wow, real brave. I’m, like, totally shocked.
    Mind you, I’m not opposed to taboos. I agree 100% with Jason that just because you have freedom of speech doesn’t mean that there’s some virtue in wantonly offending people. But it’s not a little pathetic that, in his very effort to offend, the artist here just proves how absolutely petrified he is of doing anything that would be truly sacrilegious.Report