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VICTOR JOECKS: Why I’m less libertarian than I used to be

The marketplace of ideas is on life support. Reviving it will require leaders on the right to govern more aggressively.

Let me be more personal than usual. Regular readers know I like to dissect arguments and dig into worldviews. As my alma mater, Hillsdale College, made sure I knew, “Ideas have consequences.” I’ve long thought the marketplace of ideas is the best way to sort out disagreements. It’s why for much of my adult life, I’d have been comfortable calling myself a fiscal libertarian. The government’s job is to get out of the way. Bad ideas will flame out while people will flock to replicate successful ones.

Spot the connection between that and a number of recent events.

■ Antisemitic protesters recently took over the campus of Columbia University. Jewish students faced violence and demonstrators calling for their deaths. A local rabbi urged students to stay away from campus. University leaders responded by moving classes online. This isn’t a one-off. Open antisemitism has been baring its ugly face at campuses around the country.

■ Former President Donald Trump’s show trial continues in New York City. DA Alvin Bragg used a novel — read: absurd — legal theory to charge Trump with dozens of felonies over business records. Trump probably will be convicted because the New York jury pool is filled with Democrats who hate him.

■ The Biden administration rewrote Title IX to require that men and boys be allowed in women’s and girls’ sports, and have access to their locker rooms and bathrooms. It applies to all schools, K-12 and colleges that receive federal funds. Using accurate pronouns could be considered “sex-based harassment.”

■ Katherine Maher, the head of publicly funded NPR, once said that the First Amendment was her “No. 1 challenge” in fighting disinformation. That comes after the federal government colluded with social media platforms to remove speech it didn’t like during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s the common theme. They’re all examples of leftists wielding power in ways that fundamentally undermine the marketplace of ideas. Khymani James is one of the leaders of the Columbia takeover. In January, he said on a livestream, “Zionists don’t deserve to live.” He wants the power to silence and destroy his opponents, not a neutral platform to discuss policy.

To boost President Joe Biden’s chances, Democrats want Trump in jail before Election Day and they’re stretching the law to achieve that goal. The fiction of gender identity is imposed by government fiat, not logic and persuasion. Oppose it and you could lose your job.

An analogy. Say, the Donkeys and Elephants are playing football. When they have the ball, the Donkeys move the goalposts, redraw the sidelines, replace the refs and arrest the Elephants’ QB. The libertarian would say the Elephants should try to score when they get the ball. The conservative would first work on re-establishing the conditions that make a real game possible.

That doesn’t mean conservatives should seek larger government. One of the right’s biggest priorities should be reducing its size and scope, especially at the federal level. Republicans shouldn’t pick winners and losers in the economy either.

But there is a need to govern — using the power with which voters have entrusted you to restore and preserve the country’s founding principles. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has done this better than anyone. For instance, DEI has become code for promoting racial discrimination. DeSantis banned it in higher education. He fired prosecutors who refused to prosecute.

The ascendant left doesn’t want to debate ideas and examine consequences. They want to seize and hold power by any means necessary. The right needs leaders who will fight back while working to restore the common values that make the marketplace of ideas possible.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on X.

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