Is money speech?


“Americans have the right to free speech, but what does that include? Is money a form of speech? Prof. Bradley Smith illustrates some ways money is used in practice to ensure people have free speech. For example, money used to build a place of worship or to run a newspaper or radio station could be considered a form of speech. The same can be said for money used to purchase a megaphone so a speaker can be heard over a crowd. If these uses of money are protected as a form of speech, does that mean money used on a political campaign is also a form of speech?”

A video from, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, explains that spending money is a form of speech.

Milton Friedman was well aware of the connection between economic freedom — of which spending money is a component — and political freedom. Here’s what he had to say in the opening chapter of his monumental work Capitalism and Freedom:

The Relation between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom

It is widely believed that politics and economics are separate and largely unconnected; that individual freedom is a political problem and material welfare an economic problem; and that any kind of political arrangements can be combined with any kind of economic arrangements. The chief contemporary manifestation of this idea is the advocacy of “democratic socialism” by many who condemn out of hand the restrictions on individual freedom imposed by “totalitarian socialism” in Russia, and who are persuaded that it is possible for a country to adopt the essential features of Russian economic arrangements and yet to ensure individual freedom through political arrangements. The thesis of this chapter is that such a view is a delusion, that there is an intimate connection between economics and politics, that only certain arrangements are possible and that, in particular, a society which is socialist cannot also be democratic, in the sense of guaranteeing individual freedom.

Economic arrangements play a dual role in the promotion of a free society. On the one hand, freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself. In the second place, economic freedom is also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom.


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