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Throughout his many careers Archibald Cox has been especially concerned with the Constitution and the unalienable rights of fellow citizens. In his latest book Cox reminds us of the meaning of the First Amendment to the Constitution, that first guarantee in the Bill of Rights. The Framers placed freedom of conscience above other values and then moved on to freedom of expression—a free press, the right to assemble peaceably, and the right to petition government for the redress of grievances.
Taking the occasion of the Burger Court’s tenth anniversary—a tenure approaching that of the Warren Court—Cox reviews its decisions upon freedom of expression. These include Snepp v. United States, Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, and Buckley v. Valeo. His examination shows the balances struck by the Court between freedom of expression and opposing human values such as personal privacy, fair trials, and national security. He judges the Court’s performance in defining basic freedoms: what has changed, how these rights are being expanded or circumscribed, and where the Court is heading.
Here is a brilliant book of commentary on our “first” rights under the Constitution and a call for an evolving and explicit law of the majority and a corporate minority, when there are dissents. No one has written so forthrightly about these latest Court decisions of immense importance. No one is better qualified to tell us where we stand in our freedom of expression.