Liberals love coercion. They think they're smarter than the rest of us. If they didn't, they wouldn't expend so much effort inventing new rules and laws for our betterment.
Just this past week, liberal Democrats imposed the counterfeit of homosexual "marriage" on the people of Maryland, shot down expanded gun rights in Iowa and defeated an amendment in the U.S. Senate restoring conscience protections against the Obama administration's contraceptive and abortifacient mandate to Catholic hospitals.
They were joined in the latter by "moderate" Republican Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, whose announced departure at the end of her term has generated crocodile tears among those whose favorite "moderates" are Republicans who cave on cue.
In Virginia, liberal Democrats voted to continue to bar home school families from sports teams in public schools that they support with their taxes, and halted a bill to ease the mandated anti-HPV inoculation of young girls. These are the same Democrats who screamed "keep your hands off our bodies" over a Republican-sponsored law requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound before letting the abortionist kill the baby.
Suddenly, liberals who want to get around parents to inject girls with drugs and to coerce Catholics into funding abortion pills find government coercion, well, a terrible thing. When it comes to abortion, liberals oppose any speed bumps whatsoever, including minimal health regulations imposed on all other medical clinics, and procedures aimed at providing more information to mothers about something as consequential as the gestation of a new human being.
But abortion and the proliferation of obscenity are the grand exceptions. In most other matters, liberals drink enthusiastically from the tap labeled "Coercion." They want to regulate everything under the sun, and they'd regulate the sun if they could get their hands on it. Sadly, conservatives who are tempted to use government as a vehicle for "compassion" sometimes get addicted to the same elixir.
Frustrated by Americans' continued resistance to their benevolent control, liberals a few years ago hit on their grand idea: man-made global warming. It's the ultimate excuse for regulating every human activity and expanding government. It's also another great excuse for promoting abortion and non-procreative "alternative lifestyles," because the birth of each human baby is a terrible threat to the environment.
Just to add perspective, this rush to regulate in the name of progress is a relatively new development. The U.S. government, for instance, did not have to issue a crackdown on horse poop and the hay industry to facilitate the mass switch from ol' Dobbin to the Model T.
Likewise, it did not have to punish Ma Bell to get us all off rotary units and onto cellphones. Wait. It did. It broke Ma Bell into seven Baby Bells. I stand corrected. But touch tones and iPhones would have happened anyway because people like them and Steve Jobs needed an outlet for his restless, entrepreneurial energy.
The point is, apart from the space program, which generated lots of technological breakthroughs on the taxpayer's dime before President Obama killed it, government does a lousy job of picking winners and losers compared to the free market. The freakishly expensive Solyndra boondoggle comes to mind, as do the billions spent on corn subsidies, ethanol mandates and light-bulb directives.
Sometimes, if left alone, things would head where liberals want them to go, but at a more natural pace. But liberals can't resist using coercion, mostly through judicial activism and executive-agency diktats.
Nothing illustrates this better than the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) war on coal-burning power plants, which still provide nearly half of the nation's electricity.
Last July, the EPA issued a "final Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which requires reductions of sulfur-dioxide and nitrogen-oxide emissions in 23 Eastern and Midwestern states beginning next year as well as seasonal ozone reductions in 28 states," the Wall Street Journal reports.
In December, the EPA brought down the hammer with more rules that will cost America's utilities (read: consumers) "almost $10 billion by 2015 alone," according to the Edison Electric Institute, an industry trade group. That's just what the economy needs.
In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has managed to force two coal-burning electric plants to announce premature closures. Less power to the people.
But here's the thing: Electric companies are already phasing out coal because of the boom in cheaper, cleaner natural gas. They've been adding equipment to make coal-fired plants greener. So the process was well under way, but as Mr. Obama might say, "We can't wait!"
In California, utilities and businesses are about to be sacrificed on the altar of a cap-and-tax scheme hatched back in 2006. That's when the legislature enacted the Global Warming Solutions Act, which turns the California Air Resources Board into a regulatory Godzilla.
The crackdown will not only please the fringe environmentalists who dominate the Democratic Party but will bring an estimated $14 billion a year into Sacramento's depleted coffers.
Given the heavy hand on utilities of not only the EPA but Sacramento, it's only a matter of time before the Golden State experiences power brownouts. Actually, a "brownout" in California refers to the times between Gov. Moonbeam's terms, so let's use the word "blackout."
The fact is, California is so besotted with liberalism that residents are getting numb to abuses of power, which liberals hope to export to the rest of America.
In December, state Sen. Ted Lieu, a Democrat, actually threatened to introduce legislation to force the Lowe's home-improvement chain to advertise on a Discovery Channel/TLC television show, "All-American Muslim."
To a liberal, apparently there's nothing more "all-American" than using government power to force a private company to buy ads favoring a lawmaker's chosen interest group.
Coercion is the addictive drug liberals swear they aren't using - until they use it.
Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.