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A Statist Attack on John Stossel

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Jacob Hornberger
Campaign For Liberty
June 4, 2010

If you want to understand why America is in deep crisis on the domestic front, consider an op-ed entitled “Tell Fox to Lay Off Our Civil Rights” by a liberal named James Rucker. The op-ed perfectly encapsulates the statist mindset that has mired our nation in paternalism, welfarism, socialism, and interventionism, along with the out-of-control federal spending, debt, taxes, and inflation that now threaten the United States with national bankruptcy.

Here’s what Rucker says. He wants people to sign his petition to have Fox News fire John Stossel. What’s his reason for trying to cost Stossel his job? Stossel made the long-time libertarian point that a free society entails the right to discriminate against anyone for any reason one wants. That’s what freedom of choice is all about — the right to make not only the right choices but also the wrong ones, so long as the choice is a non-violent one.

Or another way to put it is that freedom encompasses a concept called freedom of association. Free people have the right to choose the people they wish to associate with. The corollary of that principle is the right to not associate with people one doesn’t wish to associate with. Libertarians have long argued that no one should be forced to associate with someone he doesn’t wish to associate with for whatever reason.

To put the matter bluntly, under the principles of a genuinely free society, a bigot has a right to be a bigot. We can disapprove of his bigotry, and we can criticize and condemn it. We can ostracize and avoid the bigot. But the fact remains: If people are not free to choose the people with whom they wish to associate and not associate, then they cannot genuinely be considered free.

Rucker takes this principle and jumps to the old tired bromide that essentially says, “Well, if you defend freedom of association, then you must be a bigot yourself.”

Moreover, Rucker summarily rejects the libertarian argument, which Stossel emphasized, that a free society will nudge people to higher levels of conscience, conscientious behavior, responsibility, and charity through the exercise of choice, and through such peaceful means as boycotts, social ostracism, moral condemnation, and the like.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

How long have we heard this Rucker-like argument whenever we libertarians have condemned the war on drugs, a war that is, not surprisingly, as beloved to liberals as it is to conservatives. “Since you call for drug legalization, then you must favor drug abuse. And if we were legalize drugs, as you libertarians suggest, everyone would go on drugs.”

The statist mindset simply does not permit the statist to comprehend the critically important part of freedom — that freedom entails making bad choices. That’s why statists embrace paternalistic government. They want the government to stomp out all bad choices by putting people who make bad choices into jail.

Why do you think we have Social Security? It’s because children should honor their mother and father by funding their retirement. That’s the correct choice. Why not simply leave young people free to keep their own money and decide whether to help their parents out or not? Because some of them would make the wrong choice! Under statism, that wrong choice simply cannot be permitted.

What do statists say about libertarians, who call for the repeal of Social Security? They say, “Calling for repeal of Social Security proves that libertarians hate old people and would love to see them dying in the streets, which is precisely what would happen if there was no Social Security.”

Why do you think we have welfare? Because it’s right that people help the poor. Why shouldn’t people be free to keep their own money and decide for themselves whether to use it to help the poor? Because some of them would make the wrong decision! Statists cannot tolerate that. That’s why we have an IRS and federal welfare agencies.

What do statists say about libertarians, who call for the repeal of the federal income tax and all welfare? “This just goes to show that libertarians hate the poor and hope that they all die, which is precisely what would happen if there were no IRS and welfare.”

The world is mired in statism. In some countries, statists endorse book banning. Their reasoning is the same as that of Rucker’s. People can’t be left free to make the right choices as to what to read. The government must ensure that bad choices are not made. Leave it to the collective decision of society to decide the proper reading material for people, and leave it to the government to punish those who read the wrong materials.

But let’s look at the positive side of things. At least Rucker is addressing his petition to fire Stossel to the executives at Fox News rather than running to the federal government to force his firing. Hey, that’s the type of thing we libertarians say should be employed against bigots in a free society! Maybe we libertarians are making a bit of progress after all.

This article was posted: Friday, June 4, 2010 at 4:02 am

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