Listeners' Choices

46 Pages Posted: 2 May 2018 Last revised: 1 Aug 2019

Date Written: April 20, 2018


Speech is a matching problem. Speakers choose listeners, and listeners choose speakers. When their choices conflict, law often decides who speaks to whom. The pattern is clear: First Amendment doctrine consistently honors listeners’ choices for speech. When willing and unwilling listeners’ choices conflict, the willing listeners win. And when competing speakers’ choices conflict, listeners’ choices among them break the tie. This essay provides a theoretical framework for analyzing speech problems in terms of speakers’ and listeners’ choices, an argument for the centrality of listener choice to any coherent theory of free speech, and supporting examples from First Amendment caselaw.

Keywords: free speech, First Amendment, listeners, matching

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Grimmelmann, James and Grimmelmann, James, Listeners' Choices (April 20, 2018). 95 U. Colo. L. Rev. 365 (2019), Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 18-34, Available at SSRN:

James Grimmelmann (Contact Author)

Cornell Tech ( email )

2 West Loop Road
New York, NY 10044
United States

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics