The beginning of National School Choice Week seems an apt time to ponder the term “choice” as it applies to American politics and the left-right divide. The word “choice” has been emphatically reserved by the Left as their own, but this emphatic claim is one of a very narrow scope. “Choice” has become synonymous with the abortion debate, so to assert one’s self as “pro-choice” is to assert support for continuing legality of abortion. “Choice” also arises in the gender debate, with its odd mix of asserting an individual’s right to choose gender while affirming that gender identity and sexuality are not purely voluntary decisions.

Choice is anathema, however, to progressives in many or most other areas of politics and policy. Clearly, the Left abhors the idea of school choice, even though its benefit to students is backed by overwhelming evidence, and even though the nations the Left admires typically have robust school choice. Similarly, we find progressive opposition to choice in union membership and dues, in health insurance, in gun ownership, in energy, in consumer goods, in wages and employment, in consumer goods, and on and on. While it is also quite true that the Right has its own selectivity when it comes to “choice,” (see: most vices), the Left has laid its moat of exclusivity and ownership around the word, so the disconnect is most jarring in their provinces.

How to explain that disconnect? How can we resolve the fervent and at times absolutist demands regarding “choice” when it comes to abortion and gender with the opposition to “choice” in so many other areas of public policy?

It’s easy if we add another word to the analysis: “Competition.”

Competition is a hallmark of free markets, and it works best when government involvement is minimal (i.e. just enough to grease the wheels, e.g. protection for individual and property rights, national security, and administration of courts to resolve disputes). The problem, at least from the progressive viewpoint, is that competition doesn’t guarantee the preferred outcome. Moreso, competition disproves the dreams of socialism, communism, and other statist -isms, wherein and whereby the Best-And-Brightest bestow their wisdom upon the masses (by force, if necessary). Competition exposes the lie that monopolistic public education is the best means of teaching children. Competition shatters the idea that bureaucrats can produce better consumer outcomes than selfish for-profit individuals and companies. Competition supports individuals’ non-conforming choices regarding lifestyle, a bit of an odd thing for progressives who’ve written a list of 63 genders to find distasteful.

Odd only when we fail to understand that the only choices the Left supports are those that aren’t affected by competitive forces, and they do so because they cannot abide outcomes that don’t fit their narrative.

In the immortal words of the late Bill Hicks:

You are free… to do as we tell you!

Where choice fits the narrative, it’s staunchly defended. Where choice “risks” yielding undesired outcomes, it’s bad for society.

Got it?

Meanwhile, the political group that’s actually “pro-choice*” is denounced, distrusted, and mocked by the major parties. Perhaps, just perhaps, those major parties fear exposure of their choice hypocrisies?


`* It’s important to note that libertarianism contains both pro- and anti-abortion factions, a topic to be discussed another day.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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