Letter: Information control

To the editor:

Charles G. Koch’s op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal should have created debates about the idea of freedom. Alas, name-calling resulted with Koch referring to the current administration as “collectivist” who viewed citizens as incompetents.

Historically, freedom has defined relationships between people and/or specific conditions of social life. Negative freedom is freedom from constraint or coercion. If your choices of information and belief reflect only what your rulers’ desire for you, then one could scarcely conclude that you are free. Many of our freedoms are institutionalized in the Bill of Rights. These allow positive freedoms such as the right to one’s own choices, decisions and our ability to act on them.

Koch’s article skips these ideas and dwells on freedom and political power. He and his supported groups such as Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council enjoy considerable control over property and the production of goods. However these groups wish to control the educational and communication systems to promote a narrow range of choices. Hence their opposition to, among many things, gay rights, labor unions, scientific discussions in classrooms and any economic theory other than laissez faire capitalism. (We should remember that the father of these ideas, Adam Smith, censured merchants and manufacturers stating, “I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.”)