When Government Picks Winners and Losers, Everybody Loses


This article is part of a series focusing on Lens of Liberty, a project of the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation.

Last week, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Seattle University’s Law School revoked its sponsorship of an event hosted by the conservative Federalist Society. The school’s dean announced her decision via an email stating that she had been swayed by a petition claiming that the event would include “hateful xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric”:

Annette Clark, the dean of Seattle University’s Law School, has revoked the school’s sponsorship of a Federalist Society event. The reason? The proposed debate on immigration, hosted by the school’s Access to Justice Institute, might be “harmful” to minority students and “undocumented immigrants,” aka people who broke the law to get to America, though we are not supposed to talk like that these days.

While the school didn’t outright cancel the event, it revoked its sponsorship, making it more difficult for the Federalist Society to put it on. Presumably the student group will no longer receive funding from the school, but will instead be forced to pay the event’s costs out of pocket. In this way, the school is able to get away with effectively censoring speech by making it more difficult for certain views to be heard. It is able to mute voices which do not conform to the dean’s ideology, throwing diversity and tolerance out the window.

In her Liberty Minute entitled “No Dog’s Allowed,” Helen Krieble talked about another instance of those in authority being able to get away with curbing certain people’s freedom by making life more difficult for them:

In Alamosa, Colorado, and hundreds of other cities, you must have a license to own a dog or a hamster or many other pets, but not a cat. Maybe they want to encourage cat ownership, as governments have done for centuries. Ancient Egyptians so valued the cat’s prowess in keeping the rats under control, they made it a capital crime to kill a cat. Some cats were mummified and buried with their owners, a bond thousands of cat lovers to this day can understand.

But why the double standard with other pet licenses? Why would the town council encourage cats but discourage dogs? Maybe if we all looked through the lens of liberty, we would see that every licence gives power to the government at the expense of our freedom.

Just like Annette Clark at Seattle University, this town council’s dog license requirements sneakily take away a certain group of people’s freedom. They do so without altogether banning a certain activity, but by making it more difficult to be carried out. Rather than promote diversity of opinion on pet choices, they choose winners and losers and thwart the losers’ endeavors.

Whether it is government officials deciding what type of pet they want you to have or a college president deciding what messages she wants you to hear, both of these stories are examples of threats to freedom. When those with authority abuse their power by using it to help certain groups of people while hindering others, they must be called out for their double standard.

Terry Schilling

Terry Schilling is executive director of the American Principles Project.

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