We just returned from Britain, where there is chilling discussion about imposing more regulation on the press. The occasion is a probe into reporters’ news practices and relationships between particular politicians and the media.

The entire series of events demonstrates why our First Amendment guarantee of press freedom is so important.

The probe resulted from the revelation of unethical and illegal practices by a single British tabloid, The News of the World. Given the limited scope of the scandal, the investigation should be one of limited public interest.

But the News of the World was one of many news outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch, so anti-Murdoch politicians and rival media are seizing the opportunity to escalate their long-standing vendetta against him. These politicians and rival media are disproportionately on the left side of the political spectrum, and they find Murdoch distasteful because several of his leading outlets (e.g., the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, New York Post) have conservative editorial policies. (Those outlets are untouched by the scandal.) Moreover, the British investigation has focused on relationships between reporters and two figures much-loathed by the Left: Prime Minister David Cameron and former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

You can be sure, of course, that if Murdoch owned left-wing outlets, that some right-wing politicians would be screaming for regulation also.

Some “holier than thou” politicians now purport to be horrified by the way Cameron and Blair courted the press. But their disclaimers ring hollow.

Everyone who enters politics soon learns that close relationships between politicians and the press, particularly the mainstream press, are the norm. (I learned this during my years as a political activist and candidate.) At a minimum, mainstream reporters have to mute what they write about sitting office holders so they can maintain access to sources. Less scrupulous reporters amplify messages promoted by favored politicos and dig up (or manufacture) dirt against political opponents.

The Original Constitution

Get the 2nd Edition Today!

But the virtue of a free press is that when the mainstream media have been corrupted in this way, the door is always open to upstarts willing to act more honestly and more aggressively. Obviously, this is inconvenient to the political and media establishment, which helps explain why the Brits are now discussing more government control. Advocates of more regulation will come up with plausible-sounding reasons for it, but history shows that no good can come from it.

Our Founders knew this. That’s why when Independence was declared several states adopted bills of rights that protected press freedom from state restriction. And that’s why the Founders adopted the First Amendment to protect press freedom from congressional restriction.

My book, The Original Constitution: What It Actually Said and Meant, includes a section discussing the original scope of the press guarantee of the First Amendment. It’s somewhat different than the version of the First Amendment the courts apply today, but even the version the courts apply today is a lot better than what some are threatening to do in Britain.

Rob Natelson

The 10th Amendment

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”



Featured Articles

On the Constitution, history, the founders, and analysis of current events.

featured articles


Tenther Blog and News

Nullification news, quick takes, history, interviews, podcasts and much more.

tenther blog


State of the Nullification Movement

232 pages. History, constitutionality, and application today.

get the report


Path to Liberty

Our flagship podcast. Michael Boldin on the constitution, history, and strategy for liberty today

path to liberty


maharrey minute

The title says it all. Mike Maharrey with a 1 minute take on issues under a 10th Amendment lens. maharrey minute

Tenther Essentials

2-4 minute videos on key Constitutional issues - history, and application today


Join TAC, Support Liberty!

Nothing helps us get the job done more than the financial support of our members, from just $2/month!



The 10th Amendment

History, meaning, and purpose - the "Foundation of the Constitution."

10th Amendment



Get an overview of the principles, background, and application in history - and today.