Exercise Free Speech by Earning a Philodemic Fine

The Society discussed one of the most divisive ideological questions in our nation today by debating Resolved: Money should be considered speech. The Society also inducted the first members of the class of 2016! Mr. Jatovsky, making his induction, began by laying out the framework as debating whether it is good or bad that money is considered speech as the Supreme Court has ruled numerous times that it is speech. He argued that it is a good thing because that allows the United States to regulate speech just as other elements of free speech are regulated. This regulation allows for a better way of handling money and speech than what the negation can propose. Ultimately, the underlying implications of Citizens United are being debated, and these implications lead to an affirmation vote. Ms. Grace, also making her induction, agreed with the framework as well as cautioned that the affirmation is a threat to liberty as dollar votes can result in speaking against oneself. Utilizing the example of her aunt being forced to buy from a company she hated, Walmart, because of budgetary restraints, she argued that money as speech forces people to speak against their own views. Furthermore, the best standard for speech should not be money but rather merit. Ms. Grace finished by reminding the Society of our motto of eloquence in defense of liberty and that we cannot have people split their liberties. Vice President Arber used the history of money complied by an associate of Max Weber to argue that money actually drives equality. Citing Mill’s piece, On Liberty, he argued that we cannot silence anyone regardless of their opinion. He concluded by saying that spending money is always a reflection of our values and what is most important to us. President Marsh quoted Nietzsche to push the idea that we all pursue power ultimately and that this is acquired through money. Calling money an amplifier of speech, he argued that this severely disadvantages the poor in our society. He concluded by asking the Society to not make our voices inconsequential by negating.

Because President Marsh and Vice President Arber keynoted, Treasurer Hannah Miller was acting President Miller for the duration of the debate. Mr. Spagnuolo began the floor portion of the debate by asking the negation to describe a world where it is possible that money is not speech because he does not believe that is possible. Mr. Petallides decided that words would not be enough speech to convey his views on the resolution and decided to amplify his voice with money; specifically, $35 in fine money. He began his speech by warning of how easily it is for a Pandora’s Box to be opened when money is considered speech as nothing could prevent a speaker from quoting the late George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words. This amanuensis’ last bit of innocence that survived Mr. Snow’s presidential debate speech was lost as Mr. Petallides said the seven dirty words that shall not be written as I lack the amplification Mr. Petallides had to pay the fine that would be levied on me. Mr. Petallides concluded his speech by showering the floor in a cascade of speech in 35 single dollar bills, which was the amount he was fined as each word was fined 5 dollars, as he left the room. Mr. Petallides also proved that money does equal more space in the Philodemic blog post. Mr. Young followed by arguing that one dollar is more speech than ten million dollars as that dollar means more to the person who gave it. Mr. Prindiville responded that the crux of the debate is amplification and people are wrongly amplified because of money. Mr. Quinn cautioned the Society from trying to grab liberty and that there is a question of agency as there are times that we are forced to say things that we do not believe. Ms. Melendez pointed out that it is very difficult to know where money goes and that money is power not speech. Ms. Marki brought up the examples of paying a fine to avoid trial for insider trading and paying a fee to avoid going to war. Ms. Murphy argued that although her family can avoid buying from companies that they don’t approve of, others cannot because of financial reasons. Olivia Huppman (COL ’15) used art purchases to show that money determines values as well as produces innovation and creativity. Caroline Egan (COL ’15) asked if money is a good unit of measure of speech and referencing ad purchases in Mad Men to box out Kennedy from buying ads to say no as money can silence others. Agree Ahmed (SFS ’15) argued that we cannot absolve ourselves from responsibility from our actions and, as an example, cited the number of slaves who touch an iPhone during the creation of it and the fact that underdogs can win elections. Annie Wang (COL ’16) asked the Society whether we are debating money is speech or should be speech and believed that it is speech but is not good. Ms. Smith brought up art auctions to show that money is speech as it tells us what to buy. Mr. Bade cautioned against considering everything speech and pointed out that the criminal justice system distinguishes between speech and actions. Ms. Carmona criticized the previous speakers for sticking to domestic issues only and brought up Saudi Arabia to demonstrate this point. Mr. Dulik resisted his gut reaction to affirm and argued that this issue is a reflection of the character of our democracy and that we feel the openness of our democracy in voices not money. Ms. Brosnihan argued that actions speak louder than words and that money is the best reflection of our opinions. Mr. Donovan pointed out the tension in the affirmation between whether there would be regulations. Mr. Snow argued that it is impossible to have a world that is without biases in speech and how much speech people have. Ms. Wynter brought up the natural lottery and who’s listening to show that we cannot give equal money to all at birth and that some people buy things we hate. Mr. Edgar argued that we should realize the horrible truth that money is speech and try to improve from there. Ms. Regen responded that speaking is only powerful in conversation and that money limits it by having shouting from one side. Ms. Christensen closed the floor by pointing out the fact that there are inherent inequalities in every form of speech.

President Marsh argued that we would negate our American values by affirming because politicians can simply use big bucks to get reelected and the affirmation disagrees with the idea that we are completely free. Vice President Arber pointed out that we do not completely agree with everything and referencing Habermas, argued that the point of our deliberative democracy is not a high absolute power; rather, the value is derived from the deliberating itself. Ms. Grace argued that perceptions matter and can be wrong if someone if buying from a company like Walmart of Chik-fil-A which is a cost of money being speech. She argued that because we are in a normative debate that we do not have to accept the current world and that we can reject the amplifiers as they are unfair to those who cannot speak as loudly. Mr. Jatovsky noted that equal funding washed out the argument that funding silences one side of a debate and that how loud something is does not relate to how true it is and that no matter how much money is spent it can still be wrong. He concluded by arguing for more regulation and that many of the problems that the negation has brought up are actually problems of Congress and society and not money as speech.

The Society voted 34-3-28 to affirm.

The Society inducted Ms. Grace and Mr. Jatovsky! Huzzah!


Christopher Michael DiMisa

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