Advancing a Free Society

Clarence Thomas, Plato and ‘Grand Theft Auto’

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Supreme Court voted 7-2 this week to strike down a California law prohibiting the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. It was a victory for free speech, a subject that makes for strange bedfellows and odd antagonists, with the court's conservatives and liberals splitting in atypical fashion. Their disagreements implicate fundamental principles, and they echo the ancient debate between Plato and Aristotle over how societies regulate art.

In Monday's Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association ruling, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion, backed by liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elana Kagan, plus swing vote Anthony Kennedy. In a meeting of conservative minds, Chief Justice John Roberts joined Justice Samuel Alito's opinion concurring with the court's judgment but offering narrower grounds. And Justices Stephen Breyer, from a progressive perspective, and Clarence Thomas, grounded in conservative convictions, wrote separate but complementary dissents from the majority judgment.

Continue reading Peter Berkowitz’ Wall Street Journal