Volume 20

Letter from the Editor

by Luke Bunting
Dear Reader, The Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy is dedicated to promoting, exploring, and critiquing conservative, libertarian, and natural law perspectives on law and public policy. To that end, our journal maintains a strong relationship with the Georgetown Institute for the Study of Markets and Ethics (“GISME”), culminating each year in our publishing […]

When to Suppress Speech

by Michael Huemer
Private agents have good reason to suppress speech that transmits lies about matters of objective fact or that personally attacks non-public figures. Still, they should not suppress expressions of offensive or wrongheaded opinions about matters of public interest. The latter kind of speech-suppression risks entrenching erroneous beliefs, sowing distrust and polarization in society, corrupting intellectual […]

Credibility and the Standpoint Expectation

by Jessica Flanigan
When listeners consider a speaker’s social identity or standpoint as evidence of their credibility on questions related to social issues, this practice is usually epistemically counterproductive. Though people’s standpoints are relevant for understanding what it’s like to occupy a social position, the practice of boosting or blocking a speaker’s credibility on the basis of their […]

Freedom From Speech

by Mary Anne Franks
The importance of freedom of speech in a democratic society is usually taken as a given, but freedom from speech is no less important in safeguarding the values of truth, autonomy, and democracy. Freedom from speech includes both the right of the individual to not be forced to speak and the freedom to avoid the […]

Media Power Through Epistemic Funnels

by Erin Miller
Media companies are often accused of having too much power. But what sort of “power” do they have? In this essay, I offer an account of one crucial form of media power: the power to change a person’s beliefs. Such power is possible when the person gets most of their information on a given topic […]

The Epistemology of the Internet and the Regulation of Speech in America

by Brian Leiter
The Internet is the epistemological crisis of the 21st century: it has fundamentally altered the social epistemology of societies with relative freedom to access it. Most of what we think we know about the world is due to reliance on epistemic authorities, individuals, or institutions that tell us what we ought to believe about Newtonian […]

Do Universities Need Choreographed Disagreement?

by Jeffrey Adam Sachs
Alarmed by a supposed decline in civil debate and increased polarization on campus, colleges and universities are establishing programs committed to the promotion of “choreographed disagreement.” This is a highly stylized and rulebased form of disagreement, one that proponents believe will help students to better engage in civil and constructive debate. However, these programs come […]

Will We Ratify the Constitution of Knowledge?

by Daniel Cullen
The commitment to free speech and academic freedom or, more comprehensively, to what Jonathan Rauch calls “the constitution of knowledge” is not compatible with “inclusion” as the latter is understood in administrative initiatives on its behalf. But a reconciliation comes into view once we pose the naı¨ve question: “Inclusion in what?” The answer proffered here […]

Free Speech on Campus: Countering the Climate of Fear

by John Hasnas
Similar to the entertainment industry in the time of the blacklist, a climate of fear has descended on the nation’s universities and colleges. It is the fear of being punished, not for what one does, but for what one says. Today, students and faculty frequently refrain from expressing unpopular or “offensive” positions—often conservative, libertarian, or […]

Ethical Complexities in Defamation and False Light Claims

by Rodney Smolla
Richard Simmons was for decades a well-known American celebrity, health and fitness guru, motivational life-coach, comedian, and actor. In early 2014, Simmons left the public spotlight. In 2016, the National Enquirer claimed in a front-page article that Simmons had transitioned from male to female. Simmons sued the Enquirer for defamation and false light invasion of […]

Ethics in Conversation: Why “Mere” Civility is Not Enough

by J.P. Messina
In her excellent Mere Civility, Teresa Bejan distinguishes between three conceptions of civility, arguing that the third, Mere Civility, is best positioned to help us navigate our increasingly polarized world. In this paper, I argue that Mere Civility does not ask enough of speakers. As participants in important discussions, we should hold ourselves to more […]

Beyond Speech Acts: On Hate Speech and the Ubiquity of Norm Enactment

by Mary Kate McGowan
This paper argues against two frameworks for thinking about how language functions. The first such framework treats language use as primarily in the business of communicating content. On this content expression view, when we say things, we are only making claims about the world and/or offering considerations for or against such claims. It is shown […]