Editor's Note: Freedom Is for Everyone

Spring 2019 Insider

Editor's Note: Freedom Is for Everyone

Jun 10, 2019 3 min read

In this issue, you will find Heather Mac Donald (p. 16) discussing “the trashing of Western civilization” on college campuses. Picking up that theme, Mike Gonzalez (p. 32) identifies the entitlement state as a major motivator of those same corrupting agendas. 

A few pages away you can find Dan Mitchell (p. 26) employing the concept of deadweight loss to explain why everybody loses when tax rates are high, and Jonathan Bydlak (p. 21) making the case that controlling federal spending requires budget process reforms. 

Something for everybody—or at least everybody who likes bad news. Read in conjunction, these articles lead to a dire summation of our current situation: 

Raising taxes will harm the economy and lead to even more government spending (and deficits and debt); but government spending is already rising because organized interest groups value such spending and the political process rewards politicians for delivering it; meanwhile, the very existence of the entitlement state induces citizens to see their interests in terms of what government gives them; that, in turn, encourages citizens to identify as members of interest groups, often organized around some concept of victimhood, ensuring that constituencies for spending remain powerful; and all along, rising generations are being taught that freedom is a con designed to keep straight, white men in power. 

It’s a complicated knot. So how can it be untangled? You start by picking a string. Fiscal sanity can help fix the culture, and fixing the culture can make it easier to find fiscal sanity. The best case for cutting spending is grounded in an understanding of the legitimate purposes of government. And convincing people that government has grown beyond those purposes requires talking about things other than math and economics. 

It also helps to know the contrary position. As the Left sees things, individual rights are less important than power, disparities in which are the real cause of suffering in the world. In this view, the redistribution of power from the oppressors to the oppressed (primarily racial and sexual minorities) is the only just purpose of politics, and if individual rights get in the way of that project, then they must be shoved aside. Likewise, GDP growth, debt, deficits, and other traditional metrics of good policy matter not when weighed against the imperatives of equality of condition.

In the conservative understanding, the preservation of individual liberty is the only legitimate purpose of government, and limiting political power via a constitution of checks and balances and rights is the means by which liberty is preserved. 

While the conservative concern for constitutional rigor may seem distant from the everyday struggles of people, it at least has this advantage over the progressive mania for equality: It does not create insoluble conflicts over who is more oppressed than whom. Progressives want more minorities admitted to universities—as long as those minorities are not highly qualified Asian-Americans. Progressives want economic justice—but primarily justice for the inner cities, not so much for the hayseeds up in the holler. Progressives oppose bigotry—unless it’s bigotry (and worse) perpetrated against homosexuals in the name of Islam. Progressives want to stand with the historically oppressed—as long as the historically oppressed are not Jews supporting the state of Israel. Progressives want to promote the voices of racial minorities—as long as those voices aren’t expressing conservative opinions. 

With progressives in power, you can never be sure that you won’t be the next egg broken for an omelet. Conservatives don’t have need of doctrines to resolve the tensions between theory and practice—such as intersectionality—because freedom really is for everybody. Peter’s liberty is not diminished when Paul’s is protected. In fact, it’s enhanced. 

And when government protects your liberty, it puts your fortunes and your future in your own hands, not that of a group claiming you as a member. If we can’t win with that message, then we are doing something wrong.  

Alex Adrianson

Alex Adrianson edits The Insider.
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