KNOWLES: Three Cheers For “Big Government”!

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 17: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Michael Knowles visits "The Story with Martha MacCallum" in the Fox News Channel Studios on September 17, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)
Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Montana state legislature passed a bill barring private companies from requiring that their workers receive the coronavirus vaccine as a condition of employment. “Up to now Montana employers have respected the fundamental, personal, medical and religious freedoms of Montanans,” explained Republican state senator Tom McGillvray, the bill’s sponsor. “However, that’s not the case anymore. There are employers…that are requiring and coercing employees to get vaccinations under threat of termination and intimidation.” So Republicans fought back by coercing employers to respect their workers’ right to refuse the new vaccine.

According to the atrophied “conservatism” of the past few decades, McGillvray’s bill constitutes an illegitimate interference by “big government” into the free choices of the “private sector.” But the Right’s recent aversion to wielding political power has not caused freedom to flourish. Instead, decades of shilling for Big Business have led “parts of the private sector” to behave “like a woke parallel government,” as no less an establishmentarian than Mitch McConnell acknowledged earlier this month. Healthy citizens who would prefer to wait a while before receiving the hastily developed vaccine do not care who forces them to get the shot. If a private business tries to jab them, a government regulation may prove just what the doctor ordered to preserve their freedom.

On the same day that Montana legislators moved to protect citizens from the medical demands of their employers, Idaho governor Brad Little signed into law the Fetal Heartbeat Preborn Child Protection Act, which prohibits medical workers from performing abortions after the baby’s heartbeat can be detected. The law increases the size and scope of the government — as well it should. Idaho conservatives enacted the pro-life law over leftist pleas for “small government.”

The Idaho State Senate passed another expansive bill the day before when it voted to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools. The legislation instructs, “No public institution of higher education, school district, or public school, including a public charter school, shall direct or otherwise compel students to personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to any of” the racist axioms of Critical Race Theory. Not only does the bill expand the role of government in education; even more distressing for “small government” conservatives, the law would restrict “academic freedom.”

William F. Buckley Jr. famously dismissed “academic freedom” as a “superstition” and a “hoax” in God and Man at Yale, the book widely credited with launching the postwar conservative movement. No curriculum can ever be totally “open” because some things are true and others false, and teachers necessarily set out to encourage the former while suppressing the latter. Education rests on the existence of objective reality and our ability to understand the world — premises denied by Critical Race Theory. “There is a thought that stops thought,” in the words of G.K. Chesterton, “and that is the only thought that ought to be stopped.” Critical Race Theory stops thought, and so Critical Race Theory must be stopped.

A coherent conservative movement does not embrace “small” but rather limited government. It pursues justice — the “end of government,” as Madison reminds us in Federalist 51 — by giving each person his due. Sometimes that means protecting students from harmful indoctrination. At other times, it means protecting babies from the villains who would do them harm. At still other times, it means protecting private citizens from the medical demands of private companies. When “small” government cannot meet the demands of justice, we must grow the state — if only to preserve our freedom.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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