2021 Leg Session, Ari Armstrong, Exclusives, Gold Dome, Politics

Armstrong: Colorado Democrats’ strained relationship with liberty

At least Colorado Democrats believe in individual liberty once you’re dead. Recently the Governor Polis signed Senate Bill 6 to allow the composting of human remains. It’s a good bill, and frankly I was surprised the practice wasn’t already legal. My body, my choice, right?

In fairness, Democrats are concerned with liberty in a variety of other contexts too (even leaving aside the thorny discussion about abortion, in which both sides claim to support liberty).

Generally, Democrats have been more sympathetic than Republicans to the individual’s right to consume various drugs. Democrats here seem fine with letting restaurants continue to sell alcohol to go. We should note, though, that, at the national level, the Biden administration wants to ban menthol cigarettes, an extremely stupid idea that will result in more police abuses, among other problems. Some people seem to have learned nothing from the police killing of Eric Garner over his illegal selling of cigarettes.

Democrats also tend to be more concerned about people’s liberties regarding their interactions with police and the criminal justice system (proposed cigarette bans aside). Generally they want to curb police abuses and avoid overpunishment.

I do worry that Democrats sometimes overreach and put at risk the liberties of potential victims of crime. But last year’s police accountability bill was a pathbreaking reform. Generally I support reducing arrests, so I liked the spirit of this year’s Senate Bill 62, although I worried it went too far by coddling some seriously dangerous people. It’s been replaced by a scaled-down version.

In many contexts, though, Democrats are outright hostile to liberty. For example, I was surprised to read that Governor Polis signed a bill forcing businesses to accept cash. This is a genuinely bad and anti-liberty measure. There are lots of reasons a business might not want to accept cash, including the added threat of getting robbed and the hassle of making extra bank runs.

What happened to the “libertarian” Polis who thinks business owners should be able to make their own decisions? Except during the lockdowns, of course. Polis’s position now is that businesses should be able to require employees and customers to be vaccinated but that businesses can’t require customers to pay with something other than cash. Hello, consistency?

It’s not like Republicans are much better when it comes to the liberty of business owners. Sure, most Republicans think cake bakers should be able to discriminate against people who order cakes for gay- or trans-themed events, without getting sued. But Republicans also ran House Bill 1191 to prohibit businesses from requiring vaccinations among employees or customers. Republicans, like Democrats, want to have their business liberty and eat it too. God help the business owner who discriminates against someone who orders a cake to celebrate a gay-themed anti-vaxxer party.

Some people might ask, “What about the liberty of employees and customers who don’t want to get the vaccine?” Government should not force anyone to be vaccinated, obviously. But you don’t have the “liberty” to barge onto other people’s property in violation of their terms of use. Liberty is about your freedom to run your own life and to associate consensually with others, not about forcing others to associate with you.

Practically speaking, with Democrats ruling the legislative roost and much of the GOP alienating voters by playing footsie with those who assaulted the U.S. Capitol on January 6, it’s the Democrats we have to look out for now in terms of a legislative agenda. It frankly doesn’t much matter what Republicans in Colorado think these days because they don’t have the votes to pass or stop anything. Maybe someday Republicans will stop acting crazy and get serious about winning elections again. Just a thought.

Let’s see: Various Democrats also want to further chip away at the Second Amendment, ban single-use plastic bags, hamstring new charter schools, and mandate companies tell their employees how to commute to work.  Oh yeah: “They are indeed coming for your gas stove,” as the Colorado Sun notes. That’s just the start of the list, but that should give you the idea. On myriad issues, individual liberty is anything but a priority for Colorado Democrats.

Ari Armstrong writes regularly for Complete Colorado and is the author of books about Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism.  He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com.

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