The Corner

On Government ‘Force’

Had to check this one to make sure it wasn’t a spoof, but it seems to be real. Sally Kohn has a very strange concept of freedom. In a piece for Talking Points Memo, “Hey Christian Business Owners: The Government Isn’t ‘Forcing You’ To Do Anything,” she argues that a business owner who does not wish to serve gays is free to make that choice. 

First, the word “serve” is a distortion. No one is suggesting that pizzerias were turning gay customers away. There’s zero evidence that any gay customers were ever unhappy in the history of Indiana. The only reason we’re talking of pizzerias is because the press went hunting for someone, anyone, who would say that they would decline to cater a gay wedding. The delicate matter that Indiana’s RFRA raised was whether it would be acceptable for anyone to decline to participate in a gay wedding ceremony.

Kohn next argues that – under the new dispensation — business owners aren’t being “forced” to do anything. “Don’t like following the laws that apply to businesses—including serving all customers equally? Then don’t start a business. That’s your choice.”

She fleshes it out:

This issue of government force is a funny one. You could also argue that the government is forcing you to drive below the speed limit or wear a seatbelt in your car. But it’s not. There isn’t a police officer holding a gun to your head literally forcing you to buckle up. In fact, you are 100 percent free to speed and not wear your seatbelt—and simply deal with the consequences if you’re pulled over. Is the threat of the fine for breaking the law amount to “forcing” you to follow the law? No.

And more to the point, the government certainly isn’t forcing you to drive. If you don’t like the speed limit and seatbelt rules, and don’t want to be subject to the consequences of breaking them, then you can not drive. Whether to drive or not is your choice.

The notion that the government is not using “force” to compel behavior when it doesn’t have a police officer holding each citizen at gunpoint is fatuous. We don’t really have enough police officers to stand around with guns obliging people to pay their taxes, yield to pedestrians, or adhere to laws requiring government officials to use official email addresses and archive their work. We rely upon the fact that fear of apprehension and eventual punishment keeps most people within the bounds of the law.

Kohn might as well say that if we passed a federal law tomorrow making gay relationships illegal, we wouldn’t be “forcing” people to behave in any particular way. By her logic, gays would remain “free” to form relationships but would have to take the consequences. 

Progressives have completely lost sight of what liberty is. 

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