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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Has the "Kochtopus" Opened Libertarian Eyes?

Noah Smith:

Libertarians: Only now, at the end, do you understand..., by Noah Smith: Given my history of critiquing libertarianism, it would hardly be surprising if I felt a flash of gleeful schadenfreude to see the dismay with which so many movement libertarians are reacting to the Koch takeover of the Cato Institute. But I don't. I just feel sad. Here are a bunch of smart people who truly, honestly believe in their worldview - a worldview that shares some key elements with my own - discovering for the first time that they are in fact merely a proxy army for people who don't take them or their worldview seriously at all.

To those of us outside the movement, the fact that libertarians are a proxy army has always been painfully obvious. The key piece of evidence was always the set of issues that libertarians chose to emphasize. Most Americans share the idea that civil liberties are good, war is to be avoided, and high taxes are bad. But the fact that our country's libertarian movement spent so much time fighting high taxes and so little time fighting the encroaching authoritarianism of conservative presidential administrations was a clear sign that some priorities were seriously out of place. ... The contrast between libertarians' continual jeremiads against taxes and their muted, intermittent criticism of things like warrantless wiretaps, executive detention, and torture was a huge tip-off that the movement was really just some kind of intellectual front for America's right wing.

The thing is, the soldiers in this proxy army didn't seem to realize they were a proxy army. ... Now, however, they are beginning to understand...

How much did libertarians blind themselves to the true motivations of the people who were throwing money at them? We may never know. But it's certain that the blinders are off now. ...

If I were a meaner-spirited type of person, I would say that this realization is too little, too late - that libertarians spent decades being apologists, water-carriers, and useful idiots for authoritarians, and only now that their masters are reeling in the leash do they suddenly want out. But instead I say: Better late than never. ... And then start thinking about what kind of political agenda and rhetorical emphasis will actually promote liberty in America. 

Freed from the conservative yoke, libertarians will have huge potential to do a lot of real good for this fundamentally libertarian country.

I am not as convinced as Noah seems to be that the eyes of libertarians -- to the extent that they actually have opened -- will stay open.

[See Brad DeLong for more on the Kochtopus vs Cato.]

    Posted by on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 12:27 AM in Economics | Permalink  Comments (111)


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