The US Supreme Court just asked the Solicitor General to weigh in on two controversial free speech cases out of Florida and Texas, which means all signs point to the Court intervening on these matters.
Here’s a quick recap: Some red states have sought to retaliate against social media companies given the perception that platforms like Facebook and Twitter censor conservative viewpoints and moderate content in a way that disadvantages users on the Right. They’re not wrong about that, and in the past couple months we’ve received a lot more evidence proving that to be true.
But they are wrong in thinking the government has any constitutional or moral authority to intervene in the matter. Anyone who believes in basic property rights, free speech rights, and even remotely holds to the principles of individual liberty or limited government must stand by the fact that private businesses can run their companies however they wish, kick consumers off their property at whim, and cannot be forced to promote speech they don’t want to.
There is no gray area here. You stand with liberty, capitalism, and the Constitution even when things don’t cut your way, or you’re no different than the progressives who wish to weaponize big government against their enemies and force companies to operate according to their values.
Unfortunately, many Republicans in the state legislatures of Texas and Florida have aligned themselves with the latter and passed bills that are egregious attacks on the free market and free speech. I covered Texas’ bill in depth here, and Florida’s in depth here.
The bills received almost immediate legal challenges, obviously, and have been tied up in the lower courts for months now. NetChoice, a free market trade organization for tech companies (where I am a consultant) has been involved with these lawsuits and weighed in on the recent request by the Supreme Court.
“We are excited that the Supreme Court is seriously considering taking up our cases and is asking the Solicitor General for its take on the cases,” NetChoice Counsel Chris Marchese said in a statement. “We expect the Solicitor General will recognize the First Amendment rights of websites and to call on the Supreme Court to take up the cases and find for NetChoice and CCIA.”
Given the makeup of the Supreme Court, there’s good reason to think the Justices will stand up for the free market and free speech, so it’s a good sign they’re seriously considering the cases as the lower courts have been a bit of a mess. Florida’s law has been under a permanent injunction, but Texas’—which was initially halted—had a reversal by the Fifth Circuit last fall, leaving utter chaos in its wake as companies struggle to know how to operate in the intermediate time period.
Republicans who sell out basic constitutional principles when even slightly inconvenienced are wolves in sheep’s clothing, and they’re incredibly short-sighted at that. It isn’t at all hard to see the absolute cannon-sized hole such legal precedent would blow through the walls of free speech and capitalism.
This is why the Right always loses in the end and sells out its value little by little to progressives. As F.A. Hayek summarized in his famous essay “Why I’m Not A Conservative,” American conservatism is merely the brakes on the train of progressivism. They have no alternative train track, they’re just delaying the train’s inevitable plummet off the cliff.
What we need is to get on the alternate track of classical liberalism, which is actively and consistently moving towards free markets, limited government, and individual liberty.
Hannah Cox is a consultant for NetChoice.