Constitutional Commentary, 2006
21 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2006
In this essay I take up the question of whether and how we are harmed when government compels us to utter propositions whose truth we reject or which we find offensive for other reasons. I conclude that none of the various explanations offered - that we suffer harm to our autonomy, to our epistemic capacity, to our integrity, to our control over self-presentation, to our compliance with social norms or performative norms, or to our preference not to deceive others - is ultimately satisfactory. Along the way I offer a taxonomy of the Supreme Court's "compelled speech" cases, arguing that only West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette and Wooley v. Maynard actually raise the issue of compelled speech. I also introspect about the phenomenology of uttering propositions we do not believe, and how that compares to singing such propositions in hymns, or reciting them in plays.
Keywords: compelled speech, freedom of belief, autonomy
JEL Classification: K1, K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Alexander, Larry, Compelled Speech. Constitutional Commentary, 2006; San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-51. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=921414