Freedom of speech” is a rallying cry often heard in our politics. It is used to justify pornography distribution and campus protests, campaign finance deregulation and ambulance-chasing. Freedom of speech from—government interference? Thought control? State propaganda? Tyranny? Very well. But what is freedom of speech for, in a given instance? Freedom of speech, like the freedom of riding a bicycle, is good only so long as you are pointed in the right direction and paying attention.
On my college campus, there were plenty of fetishized freedoms-from: from want, from moral strictures, from social exclusion. Without exception, the pursuit of mere freedoms-from led to spirals of self-destructive misery. First Things offers the freedom-to. Our position is unique: We are a forum for different conceptions of the Good, the eternal truth, to be tested against each other and refined. To the degree that we foster progress toward the truth and promote the discovery of how our freedoms should be ordered, we succeed.
Of course, investments in the truth don’t pay the kind of dividends that keep the lights on. For that, we rely on your goodwill and generosity. If you think we have succeeded—if you think we have helped to push forward the truth—please consider supporting us financially. No other journal is dedicated to bringing you Evan Lenow on contraception, Adrian Vermeule on liberal ideology, and Aaron Kheriaty on deaths of despair. In this field, First Things is all we’ve got.
And you are all First Things has got. Help promote real and responsible freedom by contributing to our spring campaign.
Jude Russo is a summer intern at First Things.
We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.
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