Stifling Free Speech Is Not the American Way | U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Apr 07, 2016 - 3:15pm

Stifling Free Speech Is Not the American Way


Senior Editor, Digital Content

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Should employees be allowed to cuss out the boss?

Free speech is sacred to what makes America, well, America. Silencing anyone engaged in passionate debate violates our deeply held principles.

Yet in the name of “transparency” and “disclosure,” some groups want to chill the free speech of groups they don’t agree with.

Instead of having honest debates about critical issues facing the American people, left wing activists cleverly wrap themselves in warm and fuzzy terms like “transparency” and “disclosure.”

What they don’t tell you is that these concepts aren’t ends in themselves. They’re means for silencing the business community and tilting the playing field for their special interest allies to attack free enterprise.

Such attacks aren’t new, as U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue wrote in 2015:

The idea here is to bring these companies’ political spending — which is free speech — into the open so that they can be targeted for harassment and boycotts. Proponents of such efforts claim that they are simply fighting for transparency. Don’t be fooled. What they really want is to silence viewpoints they don’t like in order to have a one-sided conversation with the American people in the public square.

We’ve seen how groups organize boycotts of businesses that dare to exercise their First Amendment rights, and how organized labor and special interest groups use stockholder proxy fights to try to shut out businesses from public policy debates.

David Primo, an associate professor of political science and business administration at the University of Rochester, quoted Media Matters’ ideological attack plan to use disclosure to “provoke backlashes among companies' shareholders, employees, and customers, and the public-at-large.”

With businesses and trade associations out of the way, ideological groups can more easily push for greater regulations and higher taxes with little response from the institutions and their employees that would feel the full brunt of those misguided policies.

If you advocate for free enterprise, against punitive taxes and harmful regulations, you’re the enemy of the “disclosure” crowd.  Instead of honestly making their case in the public square, left wing groups and their friends think such speech is illegitimate and must be muzzled.

Singling out and discouraging free speech of any group runs counter to the two-plus centuries of American history. It’s simply not who we are as Americans. So, instead of trying to stifle debate, let’s have a vigorous but constructive conversation about how to grow the economy and create jobs. 

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About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.