Category Archives: Op-Eds

No, “Right to Work” Isn’t Libertarian

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs the ...
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs the National Labor Relations Act on July 5, 1935. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins (right) looks on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On March 9, governor (and likely presidential candidate) Scott Walker signed legislation making Wisconsin America’s 25th “right to work” state. Anti-union conservatives rejoiced. They were joined by some self-described libertarians.

But “right to work” isn’t libertarian. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of libertarian. It abridges freedom of association and right to contract for both unions and employers.

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (the “Wagner Act”) was the first major government intrusion into American labor relations. It provided for elections in which workers could choose unions to represent them and negotiate contracts with employers.

Because Wagner was crafted by employers and big union bosses, its provisions were designed to empower employers and big union bosses, not workers. Its “closed shop” and “one union per workplace” rules benefited the workplace-focused AFL and CIO unions (which later merged) at the expense of unions which aimed to organize by craft or industry (like IWW). Its “no wildcat strikes” and “no sympathy strikes or boycotts” rules benefited employers who knew they could pass on higher union labor costs to consumers and were willing to do so in exchange for predictable labor costs.

Wagner was bad enough. But then came “Taft-Hartley,” the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947. Taft-Hartley leaves the Wagner framework in place, but allows states to adopt “right to work” laws which forbid “closed shops” (even if unions and employers both want exclusivity), while simultaneously requiring employers and unions to treat non-union workers as if they are union workers.

Under “right to work,” an employer can’t require an employee to join a union as a condition of employment … but if the employer has a contract with a union, he has to give that non-union worker the same pay, benefits and disciplinary protections as the contract specifies for union members.

Under “right to work,” a union can’t collect dues from non-members in workplaces it represents … but it’s required to represent those non-members in contract negotiations, disciplinary proceedings, etc. exactly as if they were dues-paying members.

The Wagner Act restricts freedom in labor relations. That’s why libertarians want it repealed.

Taft-Hartley, aka “right to work,” restricts freedom in labor relations even more in a ham-handed attempt to bust organized labor. That’s why libertarians want it repealed as well.

If legislation was subject to truth in advertising laws, “right to work” would be labeled “right to freeload on employers and unions.”

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


ObamaCare: Of Hypocrites and Heroes

rgbstock ambulance

What do you call someone who opposes the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, standing instead for free markets, private charity and personal responsibility in healthcare?

What do you call that person when, in a tough situation, he acts in accord with his beliefs, relying on private charity to help him pay the bills associated with an expensive health emergency?

I can think of a lot of names for someone like that. “Hypocrite” is not among them. Some ObamaCare supporters seem a little mixed up on the subject.

Richard Mack, former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona and founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, opposes ObamaCare and declined to sign up for subsidized health insurance under its provisions.

When he suffered a heart attack in January, his family set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for his care. As I write this, the campaign has nearly met its $30,000 goal. By the time you read this, it will probably have surpassed that goal.

Donors to the fundraiser have the option of commenting, and a funny thing happened on the way to the goal: Lots of people made small donations for the sole purpose of publicly chiding “Sheriff Mack” (as his friends and fans still call him though he’s no longer in office) for his opposition to ObamaCare.

The remarks range from “agree to disagree, but I’m happy to help you” at one end to strident and, in some cases, nasty at the other. “Hypocrite” seems to be among his detractors’ favored terms.

But hypocrisy involves “insincerity by virtue of pretending to have qualities or beliefs that you do not really have.” And in this, as in so many other instances, Sheriff Mack is the exact opposite of a hypocrite.

Sheriff Mack believes that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. He also thinks it’s a very bad idea. Many Americans agree with him on both counts.

He declined to accept subsidized insurance under the ACA, and when he found himself in a catastrophic health situation he asked for assistance.

Not from the government. Not at the expense of unwilling taxpayers. Only from those who were willing to voluntarily help him. Just as he advocated for before he was the one who needed that assistance.

Sheriff Mack is well-known to libertarians for his previous stands against gun control and other violations of Americans’ rights by the federal government. In fact, he once ran for Congress on the Libertarian Party’s ballot line. Not all libertarians agree with him on every issue, but most of us respect him for his principled actions even when we disagree.

He practices what he preaches. Every time. No exceptions.

He’s not a hypocrite. He’s a hero.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Forced “Consent”: Just Say No to Court-Ordered Cosmetic Surgery

The Circumcision
The Circumcision (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Four-year-old Chase Ryan Nebus-Hironimus looks like a happy, healthy, normal kid in a playground photo published in the New York Daily News. One wonders how happy he is to find himself at the center of a court battle over whether or not doctors should cut off part of his penis. His parents,  Heather Hironimus and Dennis Nebus, disagree on the question of circumcision.

Hironimus’s argument is simple: There’s no medical or religious reason for the procedure. It’s cosmetic, it entails risks, and she’s not interested in putting Chase through it.

Nebus’s argument is, likewise, simple: It’s “just the normal thing to do,” he says.

Palm Beach County, Florida Circuit Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen agrees with Nebus. He’s threatened to jail Hironimus unless she signs a consent form for the procedure.

In Judaism, infant circumcision is a required religious practice.

In America among non-Jews, it’s become, as Nebus says, “just the normal thing to do” for several reasons. In the 19th century, quacks sold circumcision as a way to discourage masturbation, which was considered immoral and unhealthy. By the late 20th century, it had become just one more nearly automatic and usually unquestioned hospital procedure to charge new parents a few hundred bucks for.

And of course the patients can’t articulately object. They’re hours or days old. Sure, they scream as they’re physically restrained and have their foreskins torn away without benefit of anesthesia. Sure, some of them bleed to death from nicked arteries or sustain serious infections from the intentional creation of open wounds. But they didn’t — couldn’t — say “no.” So it’s all good, right?

The practice is common and accepted enough in America that even most libertarians don’t get too uptight about it. That apathy, in my opinion, bears re-thinking. But we don’t have to go there, here.

Chase Ryan Nebus-Hironimus is not an infant. He’s not an adult, but he’s probably old enough to have formed, and be able to express, an opinion on whether or not he’d like to be put under general anesthesia and have part of his penis cut off because it’s “just the  normal thing to do.” Has Judge Gillen asked for and considered his opinion?

There’s an additional and dangerous secondary issue here: Gillen’s threat to jail Heather Hironimus unless she “consents” on her son’s behalf.

That threat is a grotesque abuse of power and a bizarre re-definition of the concept of “consent.” It’s one thing to order the procedure over Hironimus’s objection. It’s another thing entirely to require her, on pain of imprisonment, to pretend she approves.

Jeffrey Dana Gillen isn’t up for re-election until 2020*, but Florida’s legislature or Supreme Court can, and should, remove him from the bench.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.

* The original version of this op-ed listed 2021 as the date of Judge Gillen’s next election. It has been corrected to 2020 (his term expires in 2021, but he will be re-elected or defeated for re-election in 2020).