Thomas Sowell
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Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner says, "We're facing a very consequential debate about some fundamental choices as a country." People talk that way in Liberal Land. Moreover, such statements pass muster with those who simply take in the words, decide whether they sound nice to them, and then move on.

But, if you take words seriously, the more fundamental question is whether individuals are to remain free to make their own choices, as distinguished from having collectivized choices, "as a country" -- which is to say, having choices made by government officials and imposed on the rest of us.

The history of the 20th century is a painful lesson on what happens when collective choices replace individual choices. Even leaving aside the chilling history of totalitarianism in the 20th century, the history of economic central planning shows it to have been such a widely recognized disaster that even communist and socialist governments were abandoning it as the century ended.

Making choices "as a country" cannot be avoided in some cases, such as elections or referenda. But that is very different from saying that decisions in general should be made "as a country" -- which boils down to having people like Timothy Geithner taking more and more decisions out of our own hands and imposing their will on the rest of us. That way lies madness exceeding anything done by the Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland."

That way lie unfunded mandates, nanny state interventions in people's lives, such as banning circumcision -- and the ultimate nanny state monstrosity, ObamaCare.

The world of reality has its problems, so it is understandable that some people want to escape to a different world, where you can talk lofty talk and forget about ugly realities like costs and repercussions. The world of reality is not nearly as lovely as the world of Liberal Land. No wonder so many people want to go there.

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Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate