Do Welfare States Have a ‘Freedom to Fund’? On Conditional Cash Transfers and Political Speech

Can the state condition financial support for artistic speech upon the content of the speech? In Israel, the government has begun to use its cash transfer mechanisms to either penalize or incentivize political speech in ideologically controversial contexts, and legal controversy ensued. The article locates cash-transfer strategies pertaining to political speech in a broader typology of welfare state conditionalities, and develops a normative evaluation metric, premised primarily on the extent of the state’s background role in sustaining the field of speech: the more state funding is essential for the supported field’s thriving, the less should it be exploited in order to affect the contents of the subsidized speech. This framework leads to a proportionality-based assessment of different methods of funding-based speech-incentivization (e.g., grants/withholding, exclusion/limitation), and is discussed in relation to other normative bases for regulation of ideological speech subsidies.