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Commercial Advertising and the First Amendment
Coase Conference: Markets, Firms and Property Rights: A Celebration of the Research of Ronald Coase, University of Chicago Law School. Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of the University of Chicago Law School.
In his path-breaking 1977 article, Advertising and Free Speech, Ronald Coase challenged the conventional wisdom in an important area of First Amendment law. What especially interested Coase was the sharp divergence between the profound commitment to the free market in the realm of speech and the lack of confidence in the free market in the realm of goods and services. Invoking Justice Holmes’s claim that “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,” Coase noted that First Amendment doctrine is largely premised on “an extreme faith in the efficiency of competitive markets and a profound distrust of government regulation.” But in the realm of “goods and services,” the same “intellectual community” that celebrates the marketplace of ideas demands ever-more extensive government regulation. Coase suggested that this disparity “calls for an explanation,” but lamented that such an explanation “is not easy to find.”
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