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In The Tolerant Society, Bollinger offers a masterful critique of the major theories of freedom of expression, and offers an alternative explanation. Traditional justifications for protecting extremist speech have turned largely on the inherent value of self-expression, maintaining that the benefits of the free interchange of ideas include the greater likelihood of serving truth and of promoting wise decisions in a democracy. Bollinger finds these theories persuasive but inadequate. Buttrressing his argument with references to the Skokie case and many other examples, as well as a careful analysis of the primary literature on free speech, he contends that the real value of toloeration of extremist speech lies in the extraordinary self-control toward antisocial behavior that it elicits: society is stengthened by the exercise of tolerance, he maintains. The problem of finding an appropriate response--especially when emotions make measured response difficult--is common to all social interaction, Bollinger points out, and there are useful lesons to be learned from withholding punishment even for what is conceded to be bad behavior.
About the Author:
Lee C. Bollinger is Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.