Why Do Conservatives Hate Freedom?
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In the cases of freedom from racial discrimination and freedom from sexual repression, American conservatives have been solidly on the side of government repression of the powerless and unprivileged. The same is true with respect to workers’ rights, debtors’ rights and criminal rights.
To listen to their Jacksonian rhetoric, American conservatives are the champions of the little guy against the “elites.” But not, it appears, in the workplace or the bank. The American right is opposed to anything — minimum wage laws, unions, workplace regulations — that would increase the bargaining power of workers relative to their bosses.
And what about debtors? Genuine Jeffersonians and Jacksonians have usually sided with working-class debtors against upper-class creditors. Not American conservatives. They supported laws making it harder for families crippled by medical bills to declare bankruptcy. The Tea Party was mobilized in part by opposition to proposals to restructure the debt of homeowners who are “underwater” with their mortgages. And — best of all — the very same American right that wants to impose Catholic or Old Testament sexual morals in the bedroom opposes Catholic and Old Testament teachings about the need to limit usury.
Last but not least is the appallingly authoritarian conservative record in the realm of criminal rights. If American conservatives really believed their talk about the threat of government tyranny and government incompetence, they would unanimously oppose the death penalty. Nothing could illustrate arbitrary, despotic government power more than the possibility that execution might depend on the vagaries of jury selection or the incompetence of state-appointed legal counsel. And yet when it comes to the death penalty, American conservatives abruptly forget their qualms about state power in its most lethal form. The same conservative movement that claims that government cannot be trusted to run the postal system or administer Social Security insists that wise and flawless government never applies the death penalty to the guilty inconsistently and never executes an innocent person by mistake.
What would America look like, if conservatives had won their battles against American liberty in the last half-century? Formal racial segregation might still exist at the state and local level in the South. In some states, it would be illegal to obtain abortions or even for married couples to use contraception. In much of the United States, gays and lesbians would still be treated as criminals. Government would dictate to Americans with whom and how they can have sex. Unions would have been completely annihilated in the public as well as the private sector. Wages and hours laws would be abolished, so that employers could pay third-world wages to Americans working seven days a week, 12 hours a day, as many did before the New Deal. There would be far more executions and far fewer procedural safeguards to ensure that the lives of innocent Americans are not ended mistakenly by the state.
That is the America that the American right for the last few generations has fought for. Freedom has nothing to do with it.