Jonah Goldberg's View of Freedom

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Goldberg, now relieved
from his editorial duties at National Review Online, has gone further
over the edge into absurdity in his latest syndicated
. Goldberg makes the incomprehensible assertion that "Americans
enjoy more freedom today than ever."

of the great examples of our new freedom is that women and blacks
"are no longer the subject of legal discrimination." Any
real libertarian or conservative would tell you that there is no
such thing as "freedom from discrimination." As Albert
Jay Nock said, "freedom either is or isn't," and the massive
bureaucracy created to protect women, homosexuals, minorities, and
various other designated victim groups clearly isn't freedom. Sure,
blacks may have the freedom to work in a job that an employer does
not want to give them. But in terms of real freedom, that is freedom
grounded in private property rights, civil rights laws have greatly
eroded liberty in this country. Businessmen are deprived of the
freedom to hire or serve who they wish. Even if they are not racist,
with dozens of court cases changing what discrimination and equal
opportunity really mean, anyone can end up on the wrong side of
a lawsuit or injunction.

goes on to say that we now enjoy more freedom of speech than ever.
To prove this, he shows that now we are even arguing whether child
pornography is protected by the First Amendment. Unfortunately,
this simply shows how the courts get indignant over issues like
child porn, while ignoring much more serious violations of our freedom.
Joe Sobran notes that Alan Dershowitz, who supports National ID
cards and torturing suspected terrorists, is called a civil libertarian
because he defends pornographers. In reality, freedom of speech
is not protected for many in this country. Take the case of Lonny
who was arrested for "malicious harassment" for
using politically incorrect words when confronting a man who assaulted
his wife. Another example is Janice
, who was charged with disturbing the peace when an off
duty police officer overheard her suggest, also using a politically
incorrect vocabulary, that immigrants should learn to speak English.
Both of these cases ended up being overturned, though neither on
free speech grounds, but considering what is taking place in England
and other European countries, we are not far behind.

is important to note that I am only using cases where action is
taken by the government to illustrate these violations of freedom.
Universities, corporations, and the media have created an even worse
atmosphere that stifles dissent (and this is largely due to fear
of lawsuits or harassment from various regulatory agencies). I do
not mention them, because no matter how silly they can be, they
are not infringing on anyone's rights by doing these things to their
own students or employees on their own property. Nonetheless, thanks
to the A.C.L.U., and their neoconservative counterparts like the
misnamed Center for Individual Rights, freedom of speech has been
used to curtail the genuine rights of private property. These people
have successfully argued in court that a college that imposes a
speech code or a shopping mall that prohibits pamphleteers is violating
the First Amendment, when in actuality they are simply exercising
their right to tell people how to act on their own property.

makes an even more absurd claim that we are freer today because
we are have more "material freedom." He claims that the
Internet gives more people the means to exercise their freedom of
speech that was once only available to the very wealthy. This of
course is based on the leftist assumption that rights are meaningless
unless you have the means (preferably given by the government) to
exercise them. He then goes on to say that laptops, cars, and cell-phones
free us from our homes and offices. By this logic, citizens of Nazi
Germany were freer than America's founders because they had more
consumer goods.

as Goldberg notes, the Bush administration has not taken away as
many civil liberties as other presidents have. Under the presidencies
of Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt, even
greater usurpation of our freedom took place. Of course neocons
hail these men as great heroes and defenders of liberty and, contrary
to Goldberg's claim, do use their actions as a precedent
for what the government can do in face of the latest crisis.

are plenty of other examples of how we have less freedom than we
had in the past. The advent of the income tax, environmental regulations,
gun control, anti-trust laws, and a giant bureaucracy that takes
40% of the nations' wealth immediately come to mind. Anyone on the
Right doesn't need to be told this. What is more important is to
realize what Goldberg associates with freedom: special rights to
woman and minorities, child porn, and birth control. You don't have
to be a paleo to recognize that what Jonah Goldberg espouses can
in no way be considered even remotely conservative.

22, 2002

Epstein [send him mail] is
an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg,
VA, where he is president of the college libertarians and editor
of the conservative newspaper, The Remnant. A
selection of his articles can be seen here

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