More laws, we’re assured, mean less freedom. Society is crushing the individual. State action is coercive, social action voluntary. When we adopt new political measures, we’re propelled down the road to serfdom. Equality is the enemy of liberty.
These assurances are familiar. We hear them all the time: I won’t bother piling up quotations but will invite you to look at the news. Some bask in their comfort. I suppose their patrons are deadly serious; I find it awfully hard, as well as astonishingly uncharitable, to imagine that those pressing such arguments are bullshitting or simply lying, that they wield them as magic charms to realize hidden, nefarious ends, and then, behind closed doors, they chuckle over the idiocy of the rubes they’ve gulled. You needn’t be stupid or wicked to believe these things. As I’ve indicated, plenty of profound political theorists did.
Still, these assurances are mistaken. They masquerade as shrewd insights into our problems and possibilities. But they lead us badly astray. The problem with them is not that they are wheeled out in support of Republican and conservative policies. The problem with them is that they don’t make sense. They distort our vision. Maybe there are better arguments for right-wing policies. I’m all ears.
We make political mistakes. They matter. Let’s stop.