Mandates vs. Freedom: “Land of the Free”?
Are we still “the land of the free?” Well, perhaps. We are free to some extent; certainly freer than other countries. For example, as a Catholic, I can go to mass on Sundays without being persecuted for my own religious views. That wouldn’t be the case in China and several Middle Eastern countries where Christianity is highly restricted and outright illegal.
But not so fast. We may be freer in some ways, but in others we are struggling. These are not insignificant liberties either; these are our guaranteed constitutional rights.
Just this week, pro-union and anti-Right to Work groups showed that freedom of speech is only “ok” if it doesn’t go against their own political ideals. These groups protested so intensely that they literally pushed down their own opposition. These same groups don’t like people to have the right to opt out from a mandatory union membership.
How low have unions stooped? They were once a powerhouse in American politics. We needed them to an extent. Like Thomas Paine said once, “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil.” Well, unions are just like government, or perhaps now, they were just like government; no more needed.
Unions have proven that they are no longer powerful as well. The American people have made it pretty clear, they don’t like unions and especially the way they express themselves. Even though they punched a Fox News contributor who tried to break a fight between them and their opposition, and even though union protesters tore down a tent from Americans for Prosperity all during your Lansing, Michigan protests, they lost.
As conservatives, we are all celebrating but this is not about how Michigan made the right move. It’s not about how right-to-work states have a lower unemployment rate. The problem here lies in how unions just don’t get it. They don’t get why more and more states are becoming right-to-work states. It’s pretty simple to explain. People realized that they have the right to opt out from forced union membership. In other words, people who don’t want to be part of a union can keep a little bit more of their wages to spend it as they see fit and not be part of an organization that they might not like. And the wages are no insignificant sum especially when 53 percent of the American people still feel like that they are headed in the wrong track.
To give you an idea, Michiganders will save on average $400 annually or about two hours of wages per month if they don’t want to join a union. That’s how much union dues run on average. It’s not as if that sum goes for better wages or a better working environment; millions of dollars go to political campaigning.
The fuss here lies in the fact that this almost omnipotent liberal force mandates workers to join their unions and endorse candidates that may disagree with the workers. It’s doubtful that everyone joining the union agrees with the candidates that the union backs with millions of dollars in political ads. One question that I have for the unions is, where is the freedom of conscience? Why can’t members select whether they want to become members or not?
Mandated political activity is not healthy for our republic, but this is not a new phenomenon. The same thing happened with the Catholic Church when President Obama mandated that contraception be included in healthcare policies of Catholic institutions such as schools, hospitals, and even churches. That goes against Catholic doctrine which opposes contraception. Why can’t the Roman Catholic Church opt out of providing birth control? There is an obvious conflict of religious freedom.
There is an obvious issue with these mandates and our liberties. I believe liberals want the best for this country, I really do. I believe they have good intentions, but do they want a freedom of conscience? They seem to always want the government to force people and institutions to abide by their own political agendas that may, in the end, go against people’s values.
After all, we are rational beings, as Aristotle would say. So, why not have the right to reason and choose what we want to do and believe? That sounds a lot more liberal to me.
Alex Uzarowicz | Knox College | @AUzarowicz