So, I read this interesting piece on Reason today. It started talking about US v. Stevens and had a frightening quote from Solicitor General Elena Kagan: "Whether a given category of speech enjoys First Amendment protection, depends upon a categorical balancing of the value of the speech against its societal costs." In Ms. Kagan's world it's apparently appropriate for Legislators to determine the "value" of speech. Never mind the plain text of the 1st amendment (Congress shall make no law...) or the obvious dangers in applying such a test to free speech. This is scary stuff indeed. Thankfully SCOTUS shot down this argument in an 8 to 1 vote.
I've heard a similar vein from leftists in discussions regarding the 2nd amendment. They point to the "societal cost" of weapons accessibility and use that as an argument for tightening restrictions on firearms ownership. It seems obvious to me that "societal cost" is a vaguely defined term that could be used to restrict all manner of civil rights but they refuse to accept this and continue to argue in favor of further restrictions on liberty. Why restrict such a standard to the 1st and 2nd amendments? What about the societal cost of criminals getting away with their crimes? Wouldn't it better for society to restrict the right to remain silent and right against unreasonable search and seizure? Maybe we should look at double jeopardy too. Doesn't it impose a cost on society to let someone get away with a crime when new evidence later materializes that could have convicted him? Might want to consider the right to a jury trial too. Juries are too easily fooled by slick lawyers and it would probably be better for society if all civil and criminal cases were decided by Judges.