Radically Subversive Speech and the Authority of Law

This essay attempts to use a familiar, relatively concrete constitutional question to think about a familiar, relatively abstract jurisprudential question – and vice versa. The constitutional question asks why we should give legal protection to what I will call “radically subversive speech.” The jurisprudential question concerns the ancient problem of the legitimacy or authority of law in general. “What is law,” as Philip Soper puts the question, “that I should obey it?” I will try in this essay to show that the abstract question sheds light on the more concrete one – and vice versa.