John Stossel / Jan. 21, 2009

Anything That's Peaceful

This week the Left arrived in Washington, excited about the wonderful things it will do to us – I mean, for us. They always do it for us.

Liberals say that they, unlike those reactionaries who’ve held power for too long, want to give us more choices. Abortion-rights advocates want women to have the “right to choose.” Gay-rights advocates want the choice of marrying someone of the same sex and serving in the military.

Choice is good. As a libertarian, I’m all over choice. But strangely, today, liberals are mostly about what Americans should not be allowed to choose.

AFL-CIO boss John Sweeney says, “[O]ur top priority is passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that will restore workers’ freedom to bargain for a better life.”

That sounds nice. But it really means that workers will no longer have the privacy and safety of a secret ballot when voting on a union. If a union can round up signatures from more than half the employees at a plant, other workers will be forced to unionize, too.

Unorganized labor – better known as most of us, or free people making our own way – won’t be helped by this coercive limiting of choice.

Parents have little choice when they send their children to school. Government forces everyone to pay into a system that locks most kids into a unionized monopoly.

If low-income parents were allowed $11,000 vouchers (that’s about how much government spends per student), that would give poor parents a choice. But liberals don’t want that.

If you take risks with your own money to build a business, liberals want to limit your choice as to what you can say, how much you pay, and whom you can hire or fire. Freedom of association? Fugeddabout it. You cannot choose to offer newcomers on-the-job training at less than $7.25 per hour. You can’t choose to pay older people or pregnant women less because their medical costs may be higher. So newcomers, older people and pregnant women can’t choose those jobs. Liberals don’t want to liberalize that.

In a job interview, you better not ask about age, citizenship status, disability, or whether the person goes by “Mr.” “Mrs.” “Miss” or “Ms.” Those questions are forbidden.

Liberal litigators have essentially outlawed racial and sexual comments in schools and workplaces. A cashier at the Senate coffee shop was threatened with firing for addressing customers as “honey” and “baby” because one man complained it was “sexual harassment.”

Liberal senators like Dick Durbin, John Kerry and Charles Schumer want speech limited further by the “fairness doctrine.” Fairness here means depriving people of the choice of all-conservative radio.

And what’s more liberal than voluntary exchange between consenting adults? Free trade lets everyone in the world find the best buys, no matter where they are. It gives us more things for less money. Even Paul Krugman supports free trade. But liberals don’t want to allow buyers and sellers to make their own choices. Liberals want trade curtailed.

Even life-saving trade: 95,000 Americans are waiting for organ transplants. Thousands die while waiting. Legalizing the sale of organs would give people the choice of life, while allowing sellers to choose cash over an extra kidney.

But liberals don’t want to let willing buyers and sellers have that choice.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decides what you may put in your own body. A truly liberal FDA would acknowledge that adults own their bodies and can decide for themselves what risks are appropriate. That would give consumers more choice. But liberals want the FDA to be tougher.

Liberals don’t want you to have the choice of owning a handgun, a big car or keeping your own money so you can use it as you see fit. Liberals want to restrict our choices.

I’m a classical liberal. I believe people should have the freedom to do anything that is peaceful. That’s truly liberal.

I want the word back.

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