Please Let’s Not Go Further Down the Road Toward Complete Politicization of Society

by Don Boudreaux on January 12, 2021

in Legal Issues, Media, Philosophy of Freedom, Seen and Unseen

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal

Editor:

Vivek Ramaswamy and Jed Rubenfeld correctly decry the practice of government officials threatening tech companies with penalties if those companies don’t control content in ways demanded by government officials (“Save the Constitution From Big Tech,” Jan. 12). But these authors incorrectly conclude that these threats, along with Section 230 immunity, render tech companies state actors whose content decisions should be subject to First Amendment challenges

We travel down a road to perdition if we allow private decisions made in response to government demands to transform, in the eyes of the law, private actors into state agents. While we might, in the past, have taken a few small steps down this perilous path, it would be a giant and rash leap to classify as state actors those private parties who supply platforms for other private actors to express opinions. Today Facebook because of its combination of coziness with, and fear of, Democratic politicians. Tomorrow the Wall Street Journal when it might be portrayed as being cozy with, and fearful of, Republican politicians.

Rather than treat private companies as state agents, a more direct and appropriate course is for courts to find in violation of the First Amendment any government official who attempts to influence private-parties’ decisions on expression by threatening those parties with government sanctions.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

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