First Amendment Theories

First Amendment Theories




First Amendment Theories

The first amendment is a vital document in that it has given a very comprehensive theory of what a constitution should regard as freedom. It has listed the applications put in case of difficult situations, and sorts them out using various theories developed. This piece will focus on four of the theories and will briefly explain their impacts since formation in their fight for freedom in the country.

Market place theory is a product of first amendment. It highly supports a laissez faire approach to governance and regulations of propositions, speech and expression. Here free individuals have the right to go through competition in an open environment of expressing truth, debates and argument to assist in the development of the best results. This theory is analogous to the economic ‘marketplace’ where decisions and policies are determined by forces of individual expression with a positive orientation. Hence market place being brought as a legal concept had already proved to be invaluable in providing truth. . (Sergey, 2011)

The self-governance theory, also known as the Miekeljohn theory of freedom leads in defining Americans as politically free and has a strong belief of self –governance. This theory advocates for a government whose powers are derived from the people themselves. As supported by the statement “we and we alone are the rulers”, this theory makes every individual part of daily governance.

Sources suggest that the theory greatly discourages ‘puppets’ of the government and gives much power to the hands of individual. An impact of such theory is in public meetings such as schools, healthcare and roads. Every individual is regarded as equals and their expression as vital as the others. Policies and provisions resulting ought to be from within these meetings as each individual has the right and duty to think his/her own thoughts, express it without distraction and listen to others. As simply put by Miekeljohn, voting is essential, and every individual has a right to speak whenever, wherever and however. (Miekeljohn, 1948)

Another theory is the individual freedom theory, also known as the self-realization of self-fulfillment theory. It highly advocates for importance of speech to an individual. It generally states that speech is a valuable part of an individual regardless on its effect to others. Self-realization recognizes an individual and character as an entity with potential to have own opinions and the right to freely express them.

Under the self-fulfillment theory, free speech is recognized as an end itself, with a direct relation to human dignity. It not only serves the political needs but also fulfills the demands of the spirit itself. This theory draws a line form the self-governance in that it supports freedom of speech at an individual basis and not collective. This theory greatly regards the right to think as the beginning of freedom and ought to be protected from the government. (Backer, 1978)

The final theory is the absolutist theory. Its role in the first amendment is to create a boundary to government censorship. This greatly benefits the fourth estate as it deprives the government the power to censor any press information. Absolutist theory is heavily backed by the clause “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech”. Therefore the powers of the government and states have been limited to the media and all their expressions will be made without discrimination and alteration.

This theory has been controversial over time as the media industry is revolutionizing. It has been witnessed across board that media personalities are being manipulated by powerful governments on what to broadcast and what to hide from the public. In America however, the absolutist theory, under the first amendment, gives the media a very important chance to be itself. (Sergey, 2011)


Sergey, T. (2011),”Absolutism And Free Speech” Civil Liberties in the United States retrieved from

Backer, C. (1978)”Scope Of First Amendment Freedom Of Speech”, U.C.L.A Law Review 25

Miekeljohn, A. (1948)”Free Speech And Its Relation To Self-Governance” Harper and Brothers

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