love stumbling into debates like this! Where to begin. ” First, with the letter of the law: the First Amendment bars Congress, and by implication the Federal Government, from interfering with free speech. Nothing is said about the right of states and localities to do the same. ” Historically, this is true. I recall several states having officially sanctioned churches at the founding of the country. On the other hand, that meaning has morphed with both amendments to the Constitution and interpretation by the Supreme Court. I agree with the premise of your argument, that it prevents Congress from limiting speech, but it goes a bit beyond that. The 14th amendment “equal protections” clause effectively applies the national constitution to each individual state. Before this, the constitution was only a protection from the federal government, but this trickled it down to the state legislatures. However, it is obviously not the constitution or the accompanying laws itself that dictate what will happen. Most of the contraints (reasonable or no, that’s debatable) imposed on speech etc are due to Supreme Court interpretation. This has varied from advocating violence against the U.S. government to be traitorous, to upholding that prior censorship for publication is illegal (though the after-consequences/lawsuits/etc may not be!) So it’s actually the court that dictates how far Congress or the state legislatures are allowed to go. Outside of that, however, I completely agree that parents, the military, employers, etc, have the ability to curb your speech in one way or another. Being a believe in self-government and minimal federal government myself, I am only half averse to libertarianism. The problem with libertarianism is that it provides for pure freedom without assuming the consequences of responsibility for those actions. Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand if the former is to exist in its best form.
Robert Mayer comments on libertarianism