Commentary Magazine


Hobson’s Choice

One of the hallmarks of the modern Left is the word “choice.” But outside of sexual preference, the Left’s operational definition of the word bares a striking resemblance to its opposite: “coercion.”

Take, for example, your kids’ school. You have the right to pay for the public schools, whether or not your kids attend (or even if they exist). Should you wish to take your portion of what you pay the schools and give it to another institution of learning, though — forget it. That is so VERY not allowed; your dollars must go to the public schools, with their unionized teachers and droning hordes of bureaucrats and forests of regulations.

Speaking of unions, want to freely choose whether or not to join one? The Left is going after that, too. With the Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act,” they plan to abolish the secret ballot and “allow” union organizers to simply present you with a union pledge card that you can freely choose to sign or not sign, in full sight of the organizer and any enforcers they happen to have with them. Thank heavens unions have so little history of violence, corruption, thuggery and intimidation.

Want to choose to support conservative talk radio? That’s another of those “bad” choices. Under a revived and expanded “Fairness Doctrine,” stations that air conservative opinions would have to provide, at no charge, opposing views. Financially, Rush Limbaugh would have to start carrying Al Franken (as Limbaugh always has plenty of sponsors, while Air America often has to pay stations to air their shows) on an hour-for-hour basis.

Want to drive a big, gas-guzzling SUV for whatever reason? Forget it. First, they’ll tack on a “gas guzzler” tax when you buy it. And they’re doing their best to keep the manufacturers from producing what the consumers demand. They impose “Corporate Average Fuel Economy” standards that force car makers to ignore market forces and juggle their production to meet these numbers.

It gets even sillier. California requires to have a certain percentage of sold cars be “low-emissions” or  “zero-emissions” vehicles.

It’s important to understand the principle at play here: for everything sold, there has to be a buyer. The makers are mandated to sell these vehicles, but the public is not required to buy them. So the makers have to go through all these convolutions and contortions (usually financial) to get the public to buy the vehicles the government mandates they sell (not just offer, but sell), in the hopes that enough of the public will be enticed to buy these vehicles.

This is why the automakers sell some vehicles at a loss. Accountants have run the numbers and determined that manufacturers  lose less selling cars at a loss then they would in paying punitive fines.

The right to choose carries with it the implicit right to make wrong choices. To make bad choices. To fail. And to deprive people of that right is to deprive them of the chance to make mistakes — and learn from them. To deny us that right — that choice — is the most obscene thing any government can do.