Forget about labels like liberal or conservative or libertarian. They are too abstract to have meaning. The United States is regarded as the land of opportunity, and IJ is in the business of trying to make that true for everyone.
There is a great and growing disparity between those with incomes in the top 20 percent and those in the bottom 20 percent. Throughout the world, government redistributionist policies have tried to narrow this gap, but with very little success without punishing overall growth. But IJ has found a way to do it: attack the thousands of private cartels in America that prevent many lower-income people from going into business for themselves. As IJ has shown, the opportunity to get into business as a taxicab driver, an African hairbraider or a casket retailer (along with so many other occupations ideally suited to lower-income people) is now blocked—not because those already in these businesses have earned a monopoly through great service, but because they have worked with the government to create laws and regulations that keep out newcomers. These cartels and the government work hand in hand to limit opportunity. IJ has gone to court in many places to eliminate these cartels.
In this era when brains are becoming steadily more important and brawn less so, kids are deprived of opportunity if they cannot get a good education. Since the public school system has failed the lowest income groups so abysmally, IJ has fought in the courts to defend those states and cities that help finance a choice between public and private schools. The biggest fights have been in Cleveland, Florida, Illinois and Milwaukee, and the biggest opponents have been the teachers’ unions—another cartel.
In addition, IJ provides law students at the University of Chicago with courses that enable these students to advise budding entrepreneurs on how to navigate all the rules and regulations, even when there is no cartel.
Another ugly debasement of capitalism shows up when governments act as agents of the powerful to take from the powerless. Using eminent domain, governments force small property owners to sell out when they don’t want to and then sell the property to big businesses. IJ is fighting the abuse of eminent domain in New York, Connecticut and Mississippi and has already won such battles in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
The Institute for Justice and its work should appeal to those across the political spectrum. Those who consider themselves liberal should appreciate IJ’s pursuit of equity for the poor and powerless; self-proclaimed conservatives should value IJ’s advocacy to limit government power; and libertarians should welcome IJ’s pursuit of a free society based on individual opportunity and responsibility.
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