Reason Podcast

Is the First Amendment Flourishing or Floundering in the 21st Century?: Podcast

Nadine Strossen, Eugene Volokh, and Stephanie Slade discuss freedom of speech, assembly, and religion at Reason's 50th anniversary.


A few weeks ago in Los Angeles, Reason celebrated its 50th anniversary. To mark that milestone, we hosted a series of discussions taking the measure of how far the world has come since 1968 in relation to a bunch of topics that we've long been interested in. I'm happy to share with you a panel titled "The First Amendment in the 21st Century."

Arguably, nothing is more fundamental to Reason's commitment to a libertarian world of "Free Minds and Free Markets" than the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment: freedom of speech, assembly, religion, and redress. Yet today's world seems to be filled with paradoxes when it comes the First Amendment: Thanks to technology and the breakdown of gatekeeper institutions, we're freer than ever to say what we want, yet expression everywhere seems haunted or blocked by hate-speech laws and formal and informal codes. Recent attempts by different levels of government to force businesses to provide birth control or wedding cakes in ways that run counter to the faith of owners have been rebuffed, but in the narrowest of terms. Is the First Amendment flourishing or floundering?

What follows is a wide-ranging and freewheeling conversation about all that and more, featuring a slugger's row of participants and moderated by me. The participants included:

We'll be releasing more podcasts from Reason's 50th anniversary over the coming weeks.

Subscribe, rate, and review our podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

Don't miss a single Reason Podcast! (Archive here.)

Subscribe at iTunes.

Follow us at SoundCloud.

Subscribe at YouTube.

Like us on Facebook.

Follow us on Twitter.

NEXT: That Time Ayn Rand Threatened Reason with Legal Action: Podcast

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. For another perspective on the First Amendment, everyone should read Reason contributor Noah Berlatsky’s excellent piece Is the First Amendment too broad? The case for regulating hate speech in America.


  2. “If you’re a baker and someone wants a baklava, just make them a baklava, OK?”

    –Justin Amash on the Khashoggi killing

  3. It’s flourishing. Trump came in and tried to systematically attack from all directions – e.g. libel laws, fake news, flag burn bans, etc. But he failed at every attempt. His failure actually I attribute to Obama, who took every opportunity to vindicate free speech in all his speeches. For example, he would remind us not to overreact after terrorist attacks, because many people were pressuring him to curtail civil liberties. Nevertheless, free speech is under serious attack from many ‘civil rights’ orgs. E.g. the ADL and SPLC are demanding bans on ‘hate speech’, and the Holocaust Museums are demanding that Facebook curtail ‘Holocaust denial’. (Yes I know Facebook is a private company and well within its rights, but that doesn’t make it right.) Soros is attacking Facebook as ‘evil’, even though it is the main conduit for fighting hate and lobbying for free speech from around the world. (Remember, the whole purpose of free speech is to prevent violence.) Also Bloomberg is undermining gun rights. We must be vigilant against these agendas and fight them aggressively – using the very tool that we are protecting.

  4. We will see laws against “hate” speech in the U.S. within the next 20 years. It will include speech and symbols.

    1. And I will break the law and be sent to a special room for socialist re-education.

  5. America: Land of the free*

    *some restrictions may apply
    *permit may be required
    *subject to change without notice

  6. Stephanie Slade: (11:43) “…I’m no great fan of the president but on religious freedom he’s been quit good on this issue.” Can you believe that I’m fed up with the caveat being put forward of not liking the president but like his policy(ies)?

    This begs a question Stephanie and that is what would Trump have to do for you to like/accept even be neutral enough to just discuss his policies as far as their intentions and effects without the personal virtue signaling crap? I dare say, taking a Wild Ass Guess, that there isn’t anything.

    Which begs a second question, how are your views any different than a southern redneck’s views towards blacks during Jim Crow?

Please to post comments