There’s an interesting article in the LA Times on the subject of Truth versus Free Speech.
Several media outlets published critical stories about working conditions in Asian factories where Nike’s athletic shoes are made, prompting Nike’s response. A San Francisco activist contended that Nike lied in its press releases and letters to newspapers and athletic directors, and sued the company for false advertising.
The corporation argued that its statements were protected by constitutional guarantees of free speech. Lower courts agreed and dismissed the lawsuit.
The state high court, however, said Thursday that the statements were commercial in nature and subject to a broad California law that prohibits misleading advertising.
When a corporation makes “factual representations about its own products or its own operations, it must speak truthfully,” Justice Joyce L. Kennard wrote for the majority.
This is quite a conundrum. Which is more important: Truth or Freedom of Speech? I’m all for “truth, justice, and the American way” but what do you do when that conflicts with the Bill of Rights? I’m of a mind that you have to go with the First Amendment on this one. If a company lies it will eventually pay the piper. Karma always works somehow. Once the Truth is revealed, the corporation will suffer the consequences and the “invisible hand” will prevail. Or am I being too idealistic? I don’t think so. The “invisible hand” is amazing because it always works and the less government intervention in its rule the better. I can see how this would be a horrible instance of applying Darwinian principles to business, though. What if a company advertises, “Yes, you can take our cold medicine even if you have taken another one,” and the result is death? The free-market and the press will eventually force the company to recognize that it’s marketing propaganda is erroneous, but not until at least one person is dead. So does that mean that the government should not defend the rights of the (innocent / ignorant) consumer? What a dilemma!
link via metafilter
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