Alexander Meiklejohn: Free Speech and its Relation to Self-GovernmentHarper Brothers Publishers, 1948 | Alexander Meiklejohn, 1872-1964

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Alexander Meiklejohn was the first political theorist to found a defense of freedom of speech entirely on democratic theory. The function of liberty of speech and of the press, in his view, is to enable the most inclusive and therefore best public deliberation. It thus refuses to identify the right to speak freely with property rights, which as Meiklejohn observes can have relatively severe restrictions within the overarching limitation of due process. Meiklejohn thus elevates freedom of speech above almost all other rights as the foundation or most essential condition of the democratic process. While Meiklejohn is more strictly libertarian than other democratic theorists when it comes to public speech, he distinguishes such speech from private speech and mere “expression,” which he believe ought to be covered by due process limitations alone.



Meiklejohn, Alexander. Free Speech and its Relation to Self-Government. New York: Harper Publishers, 1948.

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Read it at the University of Wisconsin’s Online Collection.



Schauer, Frederick. “Free Speech and the Argument from Democracy.” Nomos 25 (1983): 241-256.

Find it on JSTOR (free access).

Sunstein, Cass. “Free Speech Now.” The University of Chicago Law Review 59, No. 1 (1992): 255-316.

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