FALL 2000 ISSUE

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"I argue [in Human Liberty and Freedom of Speech] that a merely marketplace of ideas theory of freedom of speech, [or] the concept that free speech is valuable to listeners so they can arrive at truth by hearing opposing viewpoints, is problematic philosophically and pragmatically," Baker explains. He claims that the importance of the First Amendment hinges on the individual's right to freedom of speech, whether or not a free expression can be considered effectual or even beneficial according to mainstream values. Baker's viewpoint, as described in the book's self-revealing preface, was shaped by his own participation in political events of the era.

Baker's views may be rooted in the social activism of the 1970s, but he isn't stuck in the past; his work of recent years on media policy reflects an interdisciplinary orientation and an expansive view of the multimedia nature of the global generation at the millennium. He is keenly aware that modern-day warfare takes place in corporate board rooms and territorial invasions have been recharacterized as mergers and acquisitions.

"I draw heavily on political philosophy, economics, and communication scholarship," Baker said of his recent influences, including his friendship with Oscar Gandy, professor at Penn's Annenberg School for Communication. Over occasional two-hour coffees, Gandy says, Baker loves to discuss and debate ideas, especially about their shared interest in the political economy of the media, and Baker makes no bones about the fact that his opinions often pique debate. "[Ed] says quite often, "'Not everybody agrees with me on this ..,'" Gandy laughs. "He is very bright and very honest. He listens well."

Other scholars agree that Baker's scholarship is original and incisive. "I think he's terrific and one of the most important First Amendment scholars in the country, partly because he combines theory, law, and a sense of the real world," says Cass Sunstein, law professor at the University of Chicago, where Baker recently spent a semester as a visiting professor. "He's put on the map a large issue, basically all by himself: the extent to which what is portrayed and presented in the mass media is affected by the concerns of advertisers. He's also done a wonderful job of showing how the media do not provide audiences what they want, a big claim with many implications for law and policy." In fact, Baker's new book on the subject - The Relation of Media Markets to Audience Interest and Citizen Needs - will be published by Cambridge University Press this winter.

In the next year he hopes to work on another book he is tentatively calling Constitutional Foundations of Libertarian Socialism, a title he expects will raise eyebrows among traditionalists in both camps - not to mention many in the middle ground. Baker argues that there is more common ground than generally believed between these two usually polarized perspectives. While individuals' expressive freedoms must always be protected, Baker claims, the marketplace must often be reined in to ensure access to the means of expression of free speech and individual liberty for all - including those outside the power structure of mainstream corporate America.