An Economic Argument Opposing Regulation of 'Harmful Speech'
Posted: 18 Aug 2018
Date Written: August 5, 2018
A common justification for exception to general speech rights is that a class of expressive activity is "harmful." The argument is essentially economic, pointing to the social cost of harmful speech. This paper identifies three countervailing effects which undermine the received view, demonstrating that even if the harmfulness of a speech category were granted arguendo, deterrence of such speech could result in no improvement in social welfare, or even exacerbate the total harm.
Keywords: First Amendment, Freedom of Expression, Free Speech, Incitement, Obscenity, Profanity, Offense, Defamation, Libel, Slander, Fighting Words, Fake News
JEL Classification: K38, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation