Theory: John Stuart Mill and Times v. Sullivan

The question of the court in New York Times v. Sullivan, was whether or not the falsity of a statement precludes it from the protection of speech under the First Amendment. The effects of the court’s decision reaches far into the future. The importance of this decision to ensure the protection of freedom of expression is paramount. It set a precedent in the right for critique of government officials and the ability for the press to publish the truth, even at the cost of error. In looking at the importance of this decision, we will examine the philosophies of English philosopher

John Stuart Mill and his opinions on Utilitarianism and Liberalism, as well as a look at his idea of free exchange, which today we call the Marketplace of Ideas. These philosophies will be applied to the Sullivan decision, to understand how the decision is important to our freedom of expression and our right to understand the truth. The application of these philosophies to the Sullivan decision allows us to better understand the benefit that this decision has brought to our society today, and will continue to bring each and every day.


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