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< Back to question Does the marketplace of ideas work? Show more Show less

The 'marketplace of ideas' theory argues that truth is found where opinions intersect. It is the figurative arena in which all can share their opinions, subjecting them to rational, public debate. In the same way that quality goods and services rise to the top in a free market economy, so this theory sees ideas as subject to the same rigorous competition. Popular ideas are considered "truths" insofar as they rise on the back of reason. These truths are essential for society to progress. Does the marketplace of ideas work?

Yes, the marketplace of ideas works Show more Show less

The marketplace theory is now a pillar of first amendment jurisprudence. A laissez-faire marketplace of ideas is essential in any liberty-minded society.
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The marketplace of ideas has a clear legal significance

The marketplace of ideas has been used in countless legal cases to defend free speech. The marketplace of ideas has impacted the rules by which we live.
ethics law marketplace of ideas philosophy society
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The Argument

One hundred years of court case decisions have galvanized the marketplace of ideas as a central pillar of first amendment jurisprudence. John Stuart Mill, who is widely seen as the father of the marketplace, argued that no person knows the objective truth, nor does any one idea embody it. We are fallible and often stubbornly convinced of our own rightness. This human instinct can lead to censorship, and to untested dogmatic beliefs. [1] As Virginia Tech Communications Professor W. Wat. Hopkins writes of its legal significance today, "The marketplace of ideas metaphor is the model most called upon by the U.S. Supreme Court in the resolution of free-expression cases. Justices have used the theory in the adjudication of virtually every area of First Amendment law, despite increasing attacks on the theory. For the most part, however, the Court does not recognize a single, universal marketplace of ideas, but numerous mini-marketplaces, each with its own dynamics, parameters, regulatory scheme, and audience." [2]

Counter arguments

The marketplace metaphor is still founded on a basis built in a bygone era. It does not translate to the modern, digital age.


[P1] The marketplace of ideas is a concept that has been consistently re-asserted by US judicial decisions. [P2] This would not be the case if it didn't work.

Rejecting the premises



This page was last edited on Tuesday, 1 Sep 2020 at 14:10 UTC

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