WHEN GOVERNMENT SPEAKS: Politics, Law, and Government Expression in America by Mark G. Yudof

WHEN GOVERNMENT SPEAKS: Politics, Law, and Government Expression in America

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With so-so results, University of Texas law professor Yudof addresses the large and growing involvement of the government in communication--especially and explosively, in the electronic age. The problem, as he sees it, is that the government has a legitimate role to play in disseminating information and in educating its citizens. But: what bounds, if any, should be placed on the government's speech? At what point does information become propaganda; or, at what point does the government's volume of communication crowd out that of the private sector? Closely related is the problem of lack of information: the government, that is, can affect public knowledge both by what it says and by what it doesn't say (classified information, for example). Yudof, however, doesn't shed much light on the problems of limits; rather, he tries to figure out what to do once some determination of limits has been made. On that score, his chief argument is that constitutional avenues toward the limitation of government speech should be avoided--and so should guarantees; he opposes a constitutional right to free speech for the government--both because he is wary of judicial review (endowing the courts with the power to decide on policy by constitutional measures), and because he thinks that legislative measures are more effective. What they should effect is a proliferation of voices; the impact of government communication is in doubt--there isn't a convincing case to be made that it has either much or little effect--but it is unquestionably blunted when it is only one voice among many. On the private side, Yudof doesn't believe that the influence of big business on communication is as strong as is sometimes asserted, so the threat is mostly from government monopolization--unless the control of government communications is vested in autonomous agencies, like the Public Broadcasting System. This is generally unstartling material, couched moreover in social science and legalese--but not without some specialized interest.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Univ. of California Press