Constitutional law scholar addressed free speech in an era of economic and technological change

The First Amendment in the Second Gilded Age

Published March 14, 2018

Our spring 2018 Mitchell Lecture, The First Amendment in the Second Gilded Age featured Jack M. Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School.

“Professor Jack Balkin is one of the most important constitutional law theorists of our time. We look forward to hearing his thoughts on how we ought to think about the right to free speech in these times of vertiginous economic and technological change.”
Luis E. Chiesa, Professor and Chair of the Mitchell Lecture Committee
School of Law

Many of today’s most important free speech controversies have been shaped by recent economic and technological changes, and what is often referred to as a Second Gilded Age -- an era of increasing economic inequality and vast fortunes brought about by economic deregulation, globalization, and digital technologies.  On April 13, the University at Buffalo School of Law hosted a forum to discuss these changes at its 2018 Mitchell Lecture, part of its signature lecture series that brings distinguished legal scholars to the law school to speak on the most important and current issues in law.

The event titled “The First Amendment in the Second Gilded Age” featured Jack M. Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School.  He is the founder and director of Yale’s Information Society Project, an interdisciplinary center that studies law and new information technologies. He also directs the Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression, and the Knight Law and Media Program at Yale.

Balkin addressed how changes in technology and political economy have shaped debates about the free speech principle, and why we must rethink the purposes of free speech in this Second Gilded Age.

“Professor Jack Balkin is one of the most important constitutional law theorists of our time,” says Professor Luis E. Chiesa, chair of the Mitchell Lecture Committee. “We look forward to hearing his thoughts on how we ought to think about the right to free speech in these times of vertiginous economic and technological change.”

More about the Mitchell Lecture:

The Mitchell Lecture Series was endowed in 1950 by a gift from Lavinia A. Mitchell in memory of her husband, James McCormick Mitchell. An 1897 graduate of the Buffalo Law School, Mitchell later served as chairman of the Council of the University of Buffalo, which was then a private university.

Justice Robert H. Jackson delivered the first Mitchell Lecture in 1951, titled “Wartime Security and Liberty Under Law.” The lecture was published that year in the first issue of the Buffalo Law Review.

Mitchell Lecture programs have brought many distinguished speakers to the School of Law. These have included Irene Khan, C. Edwin Baker, Derrick Bell, Barry Cushman, Carol Gilligan, Elizabeth Holtzman, Stewart Macaulay, Catharine McKinnon, Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Richard Posner and Clyde Summers.