'Stare decisis' is usually the wise policy.... [b]ut where correction through legislative action is
practically impossible, this Court has often overruled its earlier decisions...
Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for the law.
The government is the potent omnipresent teacher. For good or ill it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that the end justifies the means -- to declare that the government may commit crimes -- would bring terrible retribution.
The most important political office is that of private citizen.
They: The makers of the Constitution: conferred, as against the government, the right to be let alone -- the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.
Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties... They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty.
To declare that in the administration of criminal law the end justifies the means – to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure conviction of a private criminal – would bring terrible retribution.
Ways may someday be developed by which the government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences of the home.
[The founding fathers] conferred, as against the Government, the right to be left alone -- the right most valued by civilized men.
The constitutional right of free speech has been declared to be the same in peace and war. In peace, too, men may differ widely as to what loyalty to our country demands, and an intolerant majority, swayed by passion or by fear, may be prone in the future, as it has been in the past, to stamp as disloyal opinions with which it disagrees.
At the foundation of our civil liberties lies the principle that denies to government officials an exceptional position before the law and which subjects them to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen.
Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen... If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.
Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches
and burned women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.
It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system, that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.
Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal,
well-meaning but without understanding.
The makers of our constitution undertook to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness... They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the government, the right to be let alone – the most comprehensive of the rights and the right most valued by civilized men.
We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.
No danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is an opportunity for full discussion. Only an emergency can justify repression.
If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.
In the frank expression of conflicting opinions lies the greatest promise of wisdom in governmental action.