How Do Rights Revolutions Occur? Free Speech and the First Amendment

TSE Working Paper No. 16-705

59 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2017 Last revised: 2 Mar 2020

See all articles by Daniel L. Chen

Daniel L. Chen

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse School of Economics, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, University of Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France

Susan Yeh

Charles River Associates (CRA)

Date Written: January 26, 2020

Abstract

Does obscenity law corrode moral values and does it matter? Using random judge assignment and all U.S. obscenity precedents since 1958, we present four main results. Progressive laws liberalized sexual attitudes and behaviors, reduced child abuse, but increased asymptomatic STDs. We document that newspapers reported on obscenity cases. We then assign data entry workers to transcribe randomly allocated news reports and find that exposure to progressive law shifts attitudes. Second-order norm shifts are consistent with a model where laws sanctioning activity increase its perceived prevalence, and laws shape values when sanctioned activities are prevalent. Deterrence does not solely mediate law’s impacts.

Keywords: Law and Norms, Expressive Law, Cultural Change

JEL Classification: J12, J16, Z1, N32, N42, K42

Suggested Citation

Chen, Daniel L. and Yeh, Susan, How Do Rights Revolutions Occur? Free Speech and the First Amendment (January 26, 2020). TSE Working Paper No. 16-705, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2928177 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2928177

Daniel L. Chen (Contact Author)

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse School of Economics, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, University of Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France ( email )

Toulouse School of Economics
1, Esplanade de l'Université
Toulouse, 31080
France

Susan Yeh

Charles River Associates (CRA) ( email )

1201 F. St. NW
Ste. 700
Washington, DC 20004
United States

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