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Toward a Democratic Political Economy for the First Amendment

The key to understanding the connection between rights and material conditions is a conception of democracy.... people who are suffering from certain basic forms of deprivation and disadvantage will find it impossible to exercise fundamental rights and they will be unable to participate meaningfully in the project of cooperative government. Liberties may become impossible to realize without sufficient primary goods, while membership status within the political community may be degraded by structural inequality of economic wherewithal. Such problems can be avoided, at least partially, if freedom of speech and religion are construed in ways that are sensitive to the material conditions for their meaningful exercise. Otherwise, the conditions for the cooperative project of self-government will be absent.