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Have you ever noticed the way public policy organizations, think tanks and educational establishments advertise for their programs? I have an IHS mailing that is very honest and open about what it is doing. In one of the mailings I have for various positions it is seeking to fill it advertises:

“Advance liberty”

“Advance free markets”

“Advance individual rights”

“Intern for Liberty”

“Write for Liberty”

Pretty honest and clear what the point is, and there does not seem to be much confusion about what liberty is. Many of the classical liberal organizations I follow do similar things. But have you ever noticed a “Progressive” think tank or educational organization advertise in the same way? You probably see flyers seeking students who want to “Fight for Social Justice,” “Insure the Rights of the Disabled” and so on.

Implicit in the latter is that anyone that is not a Progressive obviously does not support social justice and hopes the disabled die while convusling in the streets. Of course, those sorts of implied ideas have no substance. If opponents of the views I espouse (classical liberalism) really believe that my goals include hurting the poor, raping the environment, impoverishing the many, enriching the few, making Americans unhealthy and dumb, then there is no way we can take those folks seriously. And there is no way our ideas can duke it out in a serious matter.

That said, I think there is a problem with the way the “Progressive” organizations go about their advertising. If we want to agree that our goals are the same as theirs, (e.g. such as peace and happiness for Americans) should they (or “we” for that matter) be more truthful about the implications of how our views actually impact the world? For example, if you were a Progressive organization signing up interns in the “fight for disability rights” wouldn’t it be truthful to also add something like, “Sign up now to join the fight against entrepreneurs and other job creators!” or to get folks psyched up for social justice arguments, “Join the fight against individual rights to property!” Because that is exactly what those policies as practiced by the Progressives are actually asking for. You might argue that interning for “free markets” ought to have with it a caveat that says something about the consequences of living in a free market order, but that is quite different than being honest about the means for achieving the desired goal.

To be clearer on that point – advancing liberty is the end in itself. Advancing disability rights is not. In order to achieve disability “rights” as envisioned by those who think the ADA was important requires a violation of the rights of others. In order to achieve “liberty” the morals and intuition of certain people may perhaps be violated, but no fundamental rights are violated, and thus the two campaigns are on different planes.

In short, I’d just love to see Progressive organizations seek out bright college kids by asking, “Would you like to join the fight against the rights of the productive and the rich to keep their property? Then we have an internship for you!” “Would you like to join the fight against treating all people as equal under the law? Then check out our website!” But I doubt I’ll ever see that day.

3 Responses to “Truth in Advertising?”

  1. Harry says:

    When you do not have a good argument, the best strategy is to talk about something else.

    When that line fails, the next excuse is to blame the failure on either a faulty delivery of the message, or on the hearer of the message, who fails to get the point because of moral deficiency.

  2. Speedmaster says:

    What about “environmental justice?”

  3. The Pitfalls of Selling Politics | The Constant Linguist says:

    […] As it turns out, an economics professor I know of chose to take on that particular topic in a recent post – okay, it’s a week old, but I’ve just had the mother of all rough weeks – and, well, it’s a doozy. […]

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