Con­ser­va­tive court true de­fender of free­dom

Boston Herald - - OPINION - By JAY AM­BROSE Jay Am­brose is a syn­di­cated colum­nist.

Oc­ca­sion­ally I tune in to CNN, ac­tu­ally ap­pre­ci­ate some of its news dis­cus­sions and oth­er­wise grin and bear it. The other day, though, I frowned and de­cided not to bear it be­cause here was this hoity-toity guy telling us how free­dom would be en­dan­gered with Brett Ka­vanaugh on the Supreme Court be­cause the con­ser­va­tives would out­num­ber the lib­er­als.

Ex­cuse me, but, with ex­cep­tions, lib­er­als are among the worst en­e­mies Amer­i­can free­dom has. It’s true that the words “lib­eral” and “lib­erty” emerge from the same root word, namely “liber,” mean­ing free. In fact, when lib­er­al­ism be­gan in the 18th cen­tury En­light­en­ment era, its fore­most plank was lib­erty. We had in­alien­able rights, you see, and this phi­los­o­phy was at the heart of Amer­ica’s be­gin­nings just as the cur­rent, re­fash­ioned ver­sion could pro­pel our end­ing.

What hap­pened was “the Great Switch,” a phrase used by the his­to­rian Jac­ques Barzun in his book “From Dawn to Deca­dence.” In the late 19th and early 20th cen­turies, he wrote, so­cial­ist en­thu­si­asms be­gan to creep into lib­er­al­ism, caus­ing ideals to bend in co­er­cive direc­tions. Wade through to our 21st cen­tury, and we find lib­er­als for­ever fenc­ing us in. Our big-gov­ern­ment su­pe­ri­ors, you see, are try­ing to de­liver a cen­trally planned utopia on the way to be­ing an au­thor­i­tar­ian dystopia.

A ma­jor means for this un­der­tak­ing is reg­u­la­tions, and there are multi-thou­sands of pages of them telling us what’s best for us, only it of­ten isn’t. Busi­nesses get smashed, your choices are more lim­ited, le­gal threats start sneak­ing up on you. And guess who loved this stuff? Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. He set all kinds of records giv­ing us new reg­u­la­tions now be­ing un­done by Pres­i­dent Trump to the ben­e­fit of a boom­ing econ­omy and hu­man flour­ish­ing.

The left is not re­stricted to gov­ern­ment. At a vast num­ber of ul­tra-lib­eral uni­ver­si­ties, an­other group of our bet­ters limit free speech by stu­dents to des­ig­nated zones, im­pose speech codes and skip due process when a fe­male stu­dent ac­cuses a male stu­dent of sex­ual abuse. Back to Washington, Democrats in Congress have pro­posed that gang­ster laws be em­ployed against cor­po­ra­tions ques­tion­ing cat­a­strophic cli­mate change. A few years ago, as a show of virtue as they un­der­stood it, all the Demo­cratic mem­bers of the Se­nate voted for rewrit­ing a por­tion of the First Amend­ment to fur­ther em­power Congress to con­trol po­lit­i­cal speech.

Never tir­ing in such ef­forts, lib­er­als in and out of pol­i­tics are also en­cour­ag­ing the pro­hi­bi­tion of hate speech. Hate, of course, could be so vaguely de­fined as to cur­tail any speech in­suf­fi­ciently eu­phemistic to meet lib­eral tastes.

One of the scari­est things of late oc­curred when lib­er­als were out­raged by two free-speech rul­ings by con­ser­va­tives on the Supreme Court. One de­ci­sion said it was wrong for the state of Cal­i­for­nia to re­quire pro-life or­ga­ni­za­tions coun­sel­ing preg­nant women to put up posters telling them where to get abor­tions. In other words, the state leg­is­la­ture thought that, if a pri­vate group ad­vo­cated a cause it did not like, it could force it to pro­mote the op­po­site cause. Nope, said the court.

The court also ruled that gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees re­fus­ing to join pub­lic unions should not be forced to help pay for their costs, in­clud­ing TV ads sup­port­ing po­lit­i­cal causes they might not agree with. Does that make you stomp your feet and in­sist the gov­ern­ment darned well ought to have the pre­rog­a­tive of mak­ing you help fi­nance any pri­vate group you deign not to join? I hope not.

The amaz­ing thing is how five con­ser­va­tive, ma­jor­ity jus­tices in these rul­ings were ex­co­ri­ated for “weaponiz­ing” free speech. A front-page New York Times story quoted law pro­fes­sors and oth­ers as say­ing the pow­er­ful should not have free speech and that free speech was only le­git­i­mate when used to de­fend lib­eral causes. It shows you where the left is to­day and un­der­lines how con­ser­va­tives, es­pe­cially those who are lib­er­tar­i­ans, of course, are now the true lib­er­als.

A con­sti­tu­tion­al­ist ma­jor­ity on the court is no threat to free­dom. It is a boon to free­dom even it brings tears to the eyes of lib­er­als who are no longer lib­eral.

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