Two Lesser Known Freedom of Speech Cases
When I was a kid, maybe eight years old, I asked my father “Why don’t doctors advertise?” My fathers answer, as best I can recall, was that doctors had, as a profession, decided that advertising was not in the ethical interests of patients or physicians. I’m not sure, but I think this was prompted by seeing an ad for the law firm of Jacoby and Meyers on the TV.
In 1977 the Supreme Court of the United State ruled that state bar could not enforce on their members a prohibition against advertising. The case was Bates vs. The State Bar of Arizona, and it’s well enough known to have a Wikipedia entry.
In 1979 the Supreme Court sided with the Federal Trade Commission in the FTC’s action against the American Medical Association, and the AMA lost it’s power to bar its members from advertising. This case is not well enough known to have a Wikipedia entry, but it does have a (very brief) Conservapedia entry.
Like the Better Business Beaure and the Motion Picture Association of America, the AMA is an example of a membership body that seeks to advance its members’ interest by (among other things) enforcing standards of conduct upon it’s members.
The question of a state bar is a little muddier. In some states (like New York) the state bar (a public body) is separate from the state bar association (a private body). In some states the bar and bar association is integrated. According the the women I just talked to at the NYS Bar Association, in some states the state bar is a private body (though she couldn’t name any off the top of her head.)
In any case, now we have lawyer advertising, we have physician advertising, and drug advertising too. It used to be that television drug ads were so opaque that you wouldn’t even know what the the drug did, now they come with warnings about four-hour erections. My recollection was that that change came about administratively, rather than with the sturm and drang of a SCOTUS case.
I’ve been thinking about the above for a while, the idea of professionals restraining themselves from doing something legal because legal or not, it’s ultimately not in their own or societies best interests. I’m about it today because earlier this morning I read William Rugers post entitled Capitalist Cure, a review of A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity by Luigi Zingales.