An Epistemic Argument for an Egalitarian Public Sphere

Episteme 1 (2020)
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The public sphere should be regulated so the distribution of political speech does not correlate with the distribution of income or wealth. A public sphere where people can fund any political speech from their private holdings is epistemically defective. The argument has four steps. First, if political speech is unregulated, the rich predictably contribute a disproportionate share. Second, wealth tends to correlate with substantive political perspectives. Third, greater quantities of speech by the rich can “drown out” the speech of the poor, because of citizens’ limited attention span for politics. Finally, the normative problem with all this is that it reduces the diversity of arguments and evidence citizens become familiar with, reducing the quality of their political knowledge. The clearest implication of the argument is in favour of strict contribution limits and/or public funding for formal political campaigns, but it also has implications for more informal aspects of the public sphere.
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Archival date: 2020-11-17
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