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Marketplace of ideas

The "marketplace of ideas" is a rationale for freedom of expression based on an analogy to the economic concept of a free market. The "marketplace of ideas" holds that the truth will emerge from the competition of ideas in free, transparent public discourse. The "marketplace of ideas" concludes that ideas and ideologies will be culled according to their superiority or inferiority and widespread acceptance among the population. This concept is often applied to discussions of patent law as well as freedom of the press and the responsibilities of the media in a liberal democracy.

The marketplace of ideas metaphor was first developed by John Stuart Mill in his book, On Liberty in 1859 (although he never uses the term "marketplace"). It was later used in opinions by the Supreme Court of the United States. The first reference to the "free trade in ideas" within "the competition of the market" appears in Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s dissent in Abrams v. United States.[1] The phrase "marketplace of ideas" first appears in a concurring opinion by Justice William O. Douglas in the Supreme Court decision United States v. Rumely in 1953: "Like the publishers of newspapers, magazines, or books, this publisher bids for the minds of men in the market place of ideas."[2] The Court's 1969 decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio enshrined the marketplace of ideas as the dominant public policy in American free speech law (that is, against which narrow exceptions to freedom of speech must be justified by specific countervailing public policies). It has not been seriously questioned since in U.S. jurisprudence.

The general idea that free speech should be tolerated because it will lead toward the truth has a long history.[3] The English poet John Milton suggested that restricting speech was not necessary because "in a free and open encounter", truth would prevail.[4] U.S. President Thomas Jefferson argued that it is safe to tolerate "error of opinion ... where reason is left free to combat it".[5] Fredrick Siebert echoed the idea that free expression is self-correcting in Four Theories of the Press: "Let all with something to say be free to express themselves. The true and sound will survive. The false and unsound will be vanquished. Government should keep out of the battle and not weigh the odds in favor of one side or the other."[6] These writers did not rely on the economic analogy to a market.

If beliefs such as religions are considered as ideas, the marketplace of ideas concept favors a marketplace of religions rather than forcing a state religion or forbidding incompatible beliefs. In this sense, it provides a rationale for freedom of religion.[7]

In recent years questions have arisen regarding the existence of markets in ideas. Several scholars have noted differences between the way ideas are produced and consumed and the way more traditional goods are produced and consumed.[8] It has also been argued that the idea of the marketplace of ideas as applied to religion "incorrectly assumes a level playing field" among religions.[9] In addition, the idea of a marketplace of ideas has been applied to the study of scientific research as a social institution.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 630 (1919)
  2. ^ First Amendment Fellow (2010-05-13). "Holmes’ idea marketplace – its origins & legacy | First Amendment Center – news, commentary, analysis on free speech, press, religion, assembly, petition". Retrieved 2014-01-01. 
  3. ^ "How Much Does a Belief Cost? Revisiting the Marketplace of Ideas", Gregory Brazeal, Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, vol. 21 no. 1, pp. 2–10 (2011).
  4. ^ John Milton, Areopagitica, in Areopagitica and Of Education 1, 50 (Harlan Davidson, Inc. 1951) [1644].
  5. ^ Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address (Mar. 4, 1801), in Writings 492, 493 (Merrill D. Peterson ed. 1984).
  6. ^ Siebert, Fred S. "The Libertarian Theory" in Fred S. Siebert, Theodore Peterson, and Wilbur Schramm's Four Theories of the Press: The Authoritarian, Libertarian, Social Responsibility, and Soviet Communist Concepts of What the Press Should Be and Do, p. 45. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. (1963).
  7. ^ Ullman Chiswick, Carmel (January 2013). "Competition vs. Monopoly in the Religious Marketplace: Judaism in the United States and Israel" (PDF). 
  8. ^ See, e.g., How Much Does a Belief Cost? Revisiting the Marketplace of Ideas, Gregory Brazeal, Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, vol. 21 no. 1, p. 1 (2011); The Competition of Ideas: Market or Garden?, Robert Sparrow & Robert Goodin, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, vol. 4 no. 2, p. 45 (2001); Speech, Truth, and the Free Market for Ideas, Alvin I. Goldman & James C. Cox, Legal Theory, vol. 2, p. 1 (1996).
  9. ^ See, e.g., Makau Mutua, Facilitating Freedom of Religion or Belief, A Deskbook.
  10. ^ "Jesús Zamora Bonilla | Dpto. Lógica, Historia y Filosofía de la ciencia (UNED)". Retrieved 2014-01-01. 
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