Friday, January 28, 2011

Taverns and the First Amendment

I generally don't post about politics here, but once in a while my passion for brewing and my passion for politics cross paths. Such was the case earlier this week when I came across a fascinating paper by Baylen J. Linnekin entitled "'Tavern Talk' & the Origins of the Assembly Clause: Tracing the First Amendment's Assembly Clause Back to Its Roots in Colonial Taverns."

At a time in which both the Right and the Left seem inclined to ignore our civil liberties when it suits their goals, I found it fascinating to read how taverns played a role in shaping an important but often overlooked First Amendment right. Here's an excerpt:
Compared to speech exercised throughout general society, constraints on speech were relaxed in taverns. This fact is dramatic because it shows that tavern speech—perhaps with the exception of speech uttered in the home—was colonial speech at its most free. Speaking freely under lax authority in taverns led to “open and unguarded expression” of opinions and allowed colonists of various classes to interact more freely. The “relatively free public expression” within taverns fostered “a realm of discourse that existed outside the effective cultural control of both government and private or domestic authority.” Since movements, to succeed, require open assembly, the thoroughly constitutional vision of open assembly that tavern talk evidenced helped lead to “political as well as social change” in the colonies.
While technology can certainly facilitate communication between geographically diverse folks who wouldn't otherwise meet (this blog being a great example of that), I often yearn for the days of the corner tavern. In cyberspace, it's all too easy to surround yourself with people who affirm your beliefs (liberals read the Huffington Post; conservatives read Breitbart; etc.) but your neighborhood bar brings together people of all stripes. This was discussed at last year's Drinking & Writing Festival and I think merits further contemplation. Particularly now, as people complain that our society is becoming more and more polarized and that partisan rhetoric is becoming more and more heated, perhaps the solution isn't more regulations but rather more taverns!


Blogger Señor Brew™ said...

Nice solution. How do you propose creating more taverns than the free market already sustains? Government subsidies to tavern owners? Tax credits to tavern patrons? A law mandating that all adults must spend x amount of time in a tavern, with fines levied if they don't comply?

Or would you go the other route--less regulation--relax current zoning laws so taverns can set up right next to schools?

Russ, I know you realize my commment is toungue-in-cheek, but some of your other readers might not, hence this disclaimer.

10:48 AM, March 08, 2011  

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