CRB: The free speech debate

This morning we resume our preview of the new issue of the Claremont Review of Books. Thanks to our friends at the Claremont Institute, I read the new issue in galley to select pieces — this week I have five because we featured two yesterday and two today) to be submitted for the consideration of Power Line readers. As always, wanting to do right by the magazine and by our readers, I had a hard time choosing. You, however, can do your own choosing for $19.95 a year by clicking on the link above and accessing subscription services. At that price the CRB affords the most cost-effective political education available in the United States of America. Subscribe by clicking on Subscription Services at the link and get immediate online access thrown in for free.

The mission of the Claremont Institute is to restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Yesterday we drew attention to pieces that addressed the challenge raised by the administrative state to the founding and the accompanying overthrow of the foundation of limited government. Today we turn to the problem of free speech.

James Stoner looks at the current status of free speech through four new books in the review/essay “The free speech debate.” Nowhere in the United States is free speech more threatened or impaired than on our college campuses. Not surprisingly, two of the four books taken up by Professor Stoner in his review/essay address speech on campus and, also not surprisingly, he finds these two books “disappointing.”

In “Conservatives and free speech,” Hadley Arkes writes in the spirit of Harry Jaffa (in “On the Nature of Civil and Religious Liberty”) and Walter Berns (in Freedom, Virtue and the First Amendment). Professor Arkes focuses on the philosophical ground on which speech can rightly be defended and, indeed, limited. He is concerned that the absolutist defense of free speech has led to a relativism that cannot provide solid ground on which to stand. Professor Arkes’s essay elevates the discussion while revisiting an old debate.

Taken together, what we do not have here in these essays is a failure to communicate. What we do have here is speech put to its highest and best use in the service of freedom rightly understood.