Reclaiming “Freedom”

Thomas Frank’s weekly column in the Journal is one of the few tolerable pieces in the paper’s opinion section. This week, Frank writes, sensibly, in my opinion, that the left needs to recapture “freedom.”

There are few things in politics more annoying than the right’s utter conviction that it owns the patent on the word “freedom” that when its leaders stand up for the rights of banks to be unregulated or capital gains to be untaxed, that it is actually and obviously standing up for human liberty, the noblest cause of them all.

He concludes:

Even such pits of statism as Britain and Canada remain free societies, generally speaking, despite having gone skipping blithely down the universal-health-care road to serfdom decades ago.

For the sort of people who gathered on the Mall last weekend, however, I doubt that such observations would matter in the least. Their conception of freedom soars on by a force all its own, carried aloft on the wings of pure abstract reasoning: Government intervention equals tyranny. Liberalism is forever a form of despotism-in-waiting.

The reality of misgovernment, meanwhile, is not something you can grasp simply by donning a tricorn hat and musing on the majesty of Lady Liberty. It requires, among other things, close attention to the following irony: That many of the most destructive and even corrupt policies of the past few decades were engineered by exactly the sort of people who claim to be motivated by freedom and liberty. Our friends on the Mall no doubt imagine themselves as guiltless accusers, but if they really want to understand how our country got to this sorry state, they need to take a long hard look in the mirror.