Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Government of the Good


Abner S. Greene

First Page



Webster's definition of the noun "good" begins: "something that possesses desirable qualities, promotes success, welfare, or happiness, or is otherwise beneficial."' Whether government should promote the good, and in particular whether government should use its powers of persuasion-its "speech," if you will-to promote contested views of the good, is the subject of this Article. I will argue that, as a matter of political theory, government in a liberal democracy not only may pro- mote contested views of the good, but should do so, as well. Further, nothing in our constitutional jurisprudence demands otherwise, assuming certain conditions are met. In taking these positions, I will be opposing those scholars who either argue for a caretaker government or accept government speech only insofar as it establishes the preconditions for citizen autonomy. I will argue, instead, for a thicker "perfectionism."' That is, I will defend government advancement of specific, perhaps contested, conceptions of the good. Moreover, I will be opposing many constitutional theorists who seek to hold government to certain open forum baselines, especially when government places conditions on funded private speech. Instead, if such funding conditions raise no concerns of monopoly, coercion, or ventriloquism on a case by case basis, then the conditions are constitutional.