Driving the Market from the Marketplace of Ideas; ALEC'S Leftist Critics Prefer Speech Suppression to Democratic Debate

Article excerpt

Byline: Fred Smith, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin recently came under attack from left-wing activists for meeting with representatives of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nationwide association of conservative state legislators. This is but the latest salvo in a sustained attack on ALEC from the political left. The governor rightly has ignored the attacks, which really are efforts to stifle political speech.

ALEC's critics paint it as a shadowy organization that pushes ready-made legislation to advance a corporate agenda. In reality, the attack on ALEC is part of a much broader attack by those seeking to drive all market voices from the marketplace of ideas. ALEC's critics say they object to its tactics, but what they really seek to attack is its ideological principles: free markets and limited government.

ALEC has never denied that it promotes an agenda. That is why it was founded. Groups promoting an agenda are at the core of the political system envisioned by our nation's founders. Indeed, such organizations are part of every democracy. Embracing this reality, the founders set faction against faction as a bulwark of freedom. Open political battle among opposing groups armed with equal rights to free speech and assembly would only benefits America.

However, as the attack on ALEC illustrates, in today's highly politicized world, some factions are more equal than others. The campaign against ALEC is part of a greater concerted effort to drive productive economic voices from the policy debate. This campaign involves stigmatizing efforts by the entrepreneurial elements of the business community - and by extension, their policy allies - when they try to explain their side of an issue.

This effort to drive out pro-market voices is far more extensive than the attack on ALEC. Anti-business forces already have succeeded at excluding business experts from governmental policy advisory councils and imposing second-class status on them in academic journals. Any nonprofit political organization that receives business funding comes under constant attack - unless, that is, the funding is aimed at expanding the size and scope of government.

Businesses have every right and, in fact, a responsbility to push back against reckless job-destroying legislation. …