Freedom of Expression and the Marketplace of Ideas

By Andrew J. Petersen

Since we celebrated the Fourth of July last week, here are a few of my own thoughts on free speech. In 1919, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes explained freedom of expression and free speech by using a metaphor of the "marketplace of ideas." He correlated the necessity of free speech with free trade and competition in the marketplace. This free trade of ideas emerged from the printing presses in revolutionary America where the press challenged both economic and social relations. Justice Holmes declared: "Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition . . . But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas."

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