Freedom vs. Force

February 1, 2005

Freedom vs. Force

By John E. Kramer

History is marked by the struggle between those who seek to create through freedom versus those who seek to control through force. It is no different with the Institute for Justice’s litigation. (In case you haven’t guessed by now, the Institute for Justice is firmly on the side of the creator.)

IJ works to restore our nation’s proudest nickname—the Land of Opportunity—by representing those who seek freedom against those who would regulate others (usually to protect their financial self interest) through government force.

Pruning Economic Liberty

IJ client Shamille Peters

Shamille Peters (featured on the back page of this newsletter) would like to create beautiful floral arrangements in Louisiana, but the State continues to dash her dreams. Five times she tried unsuccessfully to pass the subjective government-imposed licensing exam—the only such exam required in the 50 states, and which, by the way, is graded by existing florists who can keep out their competition. As many as two-thirds of the individuals who take the exam fail despite the fact that many of them, like Shamille, have vast amounts of experience creating eye-pleasing arrangements.

Bureaucrats like Bob Odom, the seven-term Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry who enforces this law, are using government threats and force to keep Peters from her pursuit of a better life. Odom admitted to a local television station, “As long as the industry in this state wants to be licensed, there’s a law telling me that I need to license the people, then I will give a test and license the people. And the industry has supported that here in Louisiana. And this is some Washington-based firm. Tell them come on, let’s go to court in Louisiana and let’s find out what Louisiana is all about.”

IJ looks forward to fighting this strong-arming of ordinary Louisianans who seek to create through freedom and to free themselves from those who control others through force.

Oh, What a Tangled Wig We Weave

IJ client Benta Diaw

It would be understandable if African hairbraiders Benta Diaw of Seattle and Melony Armstrong of Tupelo, Miss., were tempted to pull out their hair over the frustration they’ve felt as a result of government regulations. In their home states, the cosmetology cartel has convinced local legislators that consumers need to be protected from a bad hair day—not that either of these master braiders would ever be a concern along those lines. The cartel-captured regulators in Mississippi, for example, require 3,200 classroom hours to get a license to teach hairbraiding. That would be enough to obtain all of the following licenses: emergency medical technician, paramedic, ambulance driver, law enforcement officer, firefighter, real estate appraiser and hunting education instructor and still have 600 hours of training to spare! Rather than allowing Diaw and Armstrong the freedom to create, the State instead uses force to protect existing providers from competition. IJ is working to untangle entrepreneurs nationwide from this kind of government largess.

Want Milk with that Bagel?

IJ client Dennis Ballen

Sometimes government force quashes; sometimes it compels. Such are the cases when it comes to government interference with commercial speech. The IJ Washington Chapter vindicated the free speech rights of a bagel vendor in Redmond who merely wanted to tell consumers where his place of business was located when the government told him he couldn’t. As noted in our cover story, the Institute also recently struck down California’s licensing requirement of an Internet website that advertised homes being sold by the owners; the State tried to require the site’s operators to become licensed real estate brokers to provide their service when no such requirement was imposed on newspapers that offered essentially the same service. Now, California consumers can save tens of thousands of dollars selling their properties themselves rather than being forced to work with government-imposed middlemen. Finally, working to compel speech, the federal government swiped milk money from dairy farmers by forcing them to pay for those “Got Milk” ads you see all over the place. The government did this with impunity until IJ successfully struck down the program in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The government is now seeking review of the case by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Give Me Land, Lots of Land

Even when the government supports the creation of something new, it can’t help but muck it up by abusing its power. In February, the Institute for Justice will argue its case against eminent domain abuse before the U.S. Supreme Court. Here, the City of New London, Conn., is using its power to force rightful property owners off of their land so someone with more political influence and financial clout can make more money off those properties. It is the most-watched case of the current U.S. Supreme Court term and could set an important precedent to restore the notion that the freedom to own and enjoy one’s land deserves more constitutional deference than the power of government to take land in the hope of some other private party creating more jobs and taxes with that property.

Through IJ’s work in court and in the court of public opinion, we will continue to free those individuals who seek nothing more from the government than to be left alone to create opportunity for themselves and for others. We will fight those who seek to impose by government force their grand vision of how the world should be.John E. Kramer is IJ’s vice president for communications.

Also in this issue

Proof Positive: School Choice Changes Lives

Hail to the Human Action Network

Subscribe to get Liberty & Law magazine direct to your mailbox!

Sign up to receive IJ's bimonthly magazine, Liberty & Law, along with breaking news updates about the Institute for Justice's fight to protect the rights of all Americans.