Dec 4, 2019
“'Right-to-work' means freedom and choice,” a Boston Globe op-ed
explains. “As housing costs rise, some people are choosing to live
on the road instead,” a Fox Business headline states. “If your
insurance company isn’t doing right by you, you should have
another, better choice,” reads Joe Biden’s campaign platform.
We’re told repeatedly that “freedom of choice” is essential to a robust economy and human happiness. Economists, executives, politicians, and pundits insist that, the same way consumers shop for TVs, workers can choose their healthcare plan, parents can choose their kids' school, and gig-economy workers can choose their own schedules and benefits.
While this language is superficially appealing, it’s also profoundly deceitful. The notion of “choice” as a gateway to freedom and a sign of societal success isn’t a neutral call for people to exercise some abstract civic power; it’s free-market capitalist ideology manufactured by libertarian and neoliberal think tanks and their mercenary economists and media messaging nodes. Its purpose: to convince people that they have a choice while obscuring the economic factors that ensure they really don’t: People can’t “choose” to keep their employer-provided insurance if they’re fired from their jobs or “choose” to enroll their kids in private school if they can’t afford the tuition.
In this episode, we examine the rise of “choice” rhetoric, how it cravenly appeals to our vanity, and how US media has uncritically adopted the framing--helping the right erode social services while atomizing us all into independent, self-interested collections of “choices.”
We are joined by Jessica Stites, executive editor of In These Times.