The freedom of choice: Liberals feel torn between important environmental, property-rights issues


These are tough times. The economy is down, the world hates us and our next president might be the craziest of all psycho chicks. But it is even tougher being a liberal.

Those on the left have had to deal with accusations of anti-Americanism, Communism and any other ism the right believes is the new buzz word. It is hard to understand why anyone would oppose an ideology that supports public education, humanity, tolerance and equal opportunities for all Americans. But one of the most difficult positions we bleeding hearts have to deal with is our support for leaving our planet in the same or better shape then the way we found it.

Progressives like Theodore Roosevelt, Al Gore and Ladybird Johnson made it a goal to ensure that the beauty of our country and our planet are preserved. The environmental movement isn’t new, and it will never become old, since the appeal of sustaining the only planet we have is significant.

But we on the left, especially young liberals, have to deal with positions that contradict each other. Not only do we want to preserve our environment, but we also support the rights of individuals. This is why we supported the Civil Rights movement and why we so strongly defend the freedoms of religions and sexual orientations. But as the progressive movement has evolved, we have become very strict on our defense of property rights. While both environmentalism and property rights are pillars of political positions, they don’t mix well together.

In the 1960s, Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights act of 1964 – not because he was a bigot, which he wasn’t, but because the legislation made it illegal for a business owner to refuse someone service based on the color of their skin. This reasoning might be ignorant and misguided, but Goldwater believed that every American, even racist, had the right to do what they wanted on property that they owned. It is hard to agree with Goldwater, since the Civil Rights movement made the United States one of the fairest and accepting countries in the world, but he made a good point.

Liberty is not just a word we repeat every time we say the Pledge of Allegiance. Liberty is the right of every man, woman and child to govern their lives as they, and they alone, choose. Political philosophers and thinkers have written about the importance of liberty for hundreds of years – thanks, John Locke. And property rights are an essential part of liberty, but how can we support property rights, while at the same time preserving endangered species and the health of our planet?

Of course, without a planet we could not establish a country on liberty, but without liberty we could not choose to be part of the environmental movement. Perhaps there is a balance between the two, but who is willing to give up liberty and/or planetary beauty? As a young person, I have the luxury of choosing not to side with one belief over another. As I get older, I am sure I will figure out which position to take, but it will be no time soon. Liberty is essential, and so is a planet. If you think you can pursue someone to support one and not the other, you are a better orator than I.

Either way, being a liberal will always have its hardships, but it is still better than the alternative. Give me Al Franken over Bill O’Reilly any day.

Owen Kennedy is a senior in management. Please send comments to