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Freedom As An End In Itself

In my latest Pittsburgh Tribune-Review column I ponder the curious effect that a stated preference for economic freedom has today on someone’s credibility as a social scientist.  A slice:

Loud applause would greet a person who, upon hearing a proposal for government to restrict our freedom to choose with whom we may enter into loving partnerships, exclaimed simply, “No, it’s just wrong for government to do that!” That person would not be accused of being an ideologue unfit to comment on public policy.

Yet let the matter turn to economic freedom and things change dramatically. If someone objects to tariffs only on the grounds that government should not restrict our freedom to choose which legal goods and services to buy, that person is ridiculed as an ideologue. That person’s preference to remain free to choose among commercial options is dismissed as being, at best, insignificant. More often, that expression of preference for economic freedom gets the person labeled as a stubborn ideologue.

But no one has ever adequately explained why an intrinsic desire for economic freedom deserves only derision and dismissal while an intrinsic desire for, say, reproductive freedom or freedom of the press deserves applause and consideration. A desire for all freedom deserves applause and consideration.


No one would dismiss or discount the work or findings of a climate scientist simply on the grounds that that climate scientist expresses a sincere preference that the earth’s climate not be changing.