The Washington Post


Here comes another pivotal election that purports to be all about freedom. Prepare to hear and hear again that government is the opposite of freedom. This is one of those keep-repeating-it-until-it-seems-true ideas. It’s wrong.

Sure government can take away your freedom to pump poison into the air. But suppose you want the freedom to breathe air that doesn’t have poison in it? Where do you go for that freedom if there is no government? Poison in your food? What if you consider freedom to be more than just deciding to not buy the poison lettuce again after you died from the salad you made with it? Hey, you might consider freedom to be able to get around in a city if you don’t own a car! Or if you have a disability. The are more or these, lots more. Let’s not forget that segregation was long peddled as “freedom” too.

But even in the areas where the trade-offs are more traditionally clear-cut transactional economics, there is still big real-world catch. Suppose businesses were entirely free of regulation. Yeah, they might generate greater profit margins. Great. Been there, done that. It frequently poverty-level wages, wildly dangerous working conditions, and endless hours for a lot of workers who were desperate for any kind of a job. I GUESS you could define that as freedom for those workers as well as the business, but go ahead, I’d like to hear it. Would it be something like: those workers were free to have been born into a better demographic to afford private schools (no government schools here, thank you) so somebody ELSE would end up with the freedom to take those jobs? Are we talking about freedom, or freedom for some?

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog. See all of his cartoons here.


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