Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jane Mayer is an Idiot

Wow, Jane Mayer is an idiot. A nice dismemberment. Here is the original article.

I thought the point about Hayek is a good one. If you were going to dismiss him as a crackpot, the inconvenient Nobel Prize thing....a real reporter would mention it. Ms. Mayer did not.

(Nod to Virginia Postrel, on FB of all things)


Anonymous said...

Does his Nobel prize means I can't think of Al Gore as a crackpot?

Anonymous said...

Right, because Gore's Peace Prize is equivalent to the Nobel that Hayek won. Geez.

Matt said...

Ditto to 9:50 with Krugman.

Steve said...

She wrote a brilliant book on torture, and has done some of the best investigative reporting in that area.

But insult Hayek! The man who claimed that implementing the NHS would require a Gestapo-like bureaucracy? Whose most famous thesis, on the incremental slide toward authoritarianism, has been proven 100% wrong by history? My god what could be worse?

It's entirely appropriate not to mention the Nobel prize. Hayek is a couple of people - there's the brilliant economist and erudite writer on liberty in books like COL.

Then there's the Hayek of the modern right - the caricature. This is who Mayer is writing about, this fictional character deserves our scorn and rejection. Those on the right who claim to be Hayek lovers have bought RTS and put it on their shelves - one ought to assume that spine has not been cracked until proven otherwise.

To pretend like the left in 2010 America is anything like 1) socialists or 2) the people Hayek describes in "Who, Whom?", as these people do, insults the intelligence and cheapens RTS - which was about the real substantive threat to liberty at the time.

Here's one more piece of evidence that libertarians are motivated by economic liberty, and more or less tone-deaf on the civil stuff outside of drug laws and certain free speech cases. They don't seem to be especially bothered by the real problems around liberty of the past 10 years - the breathtaking abandonment of the high road on issues like torture and rendition and rights of the accused and brown people in general.

If those things were really priorities I doubt you'd be calling Mayer an idiot. In a proper libertarian movement she would be celebrated as a crusader against abuses of power by real American leader who were around just a few years ago. The Dark Side is well within the spirit of RTS, but for our time.

Thanks Jane!

Tom said...

Poor, lonely Steve needs to get out more. He thinks libertarians are "more or less tone-deaf on [civil liberties] outside of drug laws and certain free speech cases." Just those two -- along with fair treatment of immigrants, wresting control of marriage from the State, personal self defense, government spying on the populace, pre-emptive wars and general foreign meddlesomeness, eminent domain abuse, civil asset forfiture, the militarization of police, fully informed juries, choice in education, opposing Conscription, prison reform, and, of course, ALL free speech cases.*

And, with all of the above needing attention, somehow the "incremental slide toward authoritarianism, has been proven wrong"? Steve should go sass a cop ... or just try to get on a plane with a bottle of water.

*This is a partial list; just what I could think of without doing research. Check the LP platform

David said...

I think of a watch dog as being mean spirited and narrow minded, with a propensity to overreact to the slightest provocation, relevant or not. So on that note, I think Mayer's characterization is probably pretty accurate.

Dirty Davey said...

The ending of the "dismemberment" suggests the author is not to be taken seriously:

The giveaway paragraph comes at the end of the long New Yorker piece:

"The Kochs' sense of imperilment is somewhat puzzling[....] Yet the brothers' message has evidently resonated with voters: a recent poll found that fifty-five per cent of Americans agreed that Obama is a socialist.

"The New Yorker and Jane Mayer find the Koch brothers' beliefs 'puzzling,' but 55% of Americans don't."

Anyone who has an ounce of intellectual honesty and a vague acquaintance with "socialism" knows that "Obama is a socialist" is fundamentally a lie. The fact that 55% of Americans can be made to believe that lie does not cause it to become true.

What the Kochs' sense of imperilment is, in fact, is a pose. They know that their riches will not be significantly imperiled by a centrist moderate--which is what Obama is, and which is about as far left as an honest observer would put the Democratic party leadership. However, they can profit handsomely by lying about the threat of "socialism", and by bribing others to lie on their behalf.

By pretending that those who say "Obama is a socialist" are somehow correct or have a valid understanding of what they're saying, Ira Stoll here forfeits any claim to integrity or intellectual honesty.

BR said...

Obama is definitely a socialist. I can't think of anything he has "done" that hasn't increased the government's influence/control of the means of production or the distribution of goods. He is aiding and abetting our transition to Communism and is therefore a socialist as are most Republicans and Democrats I've encountered.

John said...

To use a perhaps unfairly provocative term for his economic philosophy, he is more... lets just say corparatist, than socialist. For the _most_ part, he hasn't shown zeal for straight nationalization of all the means of production. Private ownership is ok, as long as people do with those things what he and the congress wants. Moderate being a relative term, calling Obama a moderate, at least for America, is a joke. In the end, though, he is most clearly no friend to liberty. And in that way, he is in no small company in the fraternity of American presidents.

Anonymous said...

Damn Socialist, wanting to put the marginal tax rate back to where it was under Clinton and Reagan! Thinking really hard about trying for a Public Option before killing it, despite overwhelming public support for it. Creating TARP (oh, wait..). Giving out tax credits and wanting to spend money on infrastructure and other worthless crap. Where does he get off?!?

David said...

I definitely disagreed with the thrust of the article. She labeled groups in the standard split between "non-partisan," and "libertarian" or "conservative." And when the Kochs put out an idea that others agree with, it's somehow evidence of their sinister control of the libertarian hive mind.

But there were a few things that she pointed out that I did find a little unsettling and fully worth reporting on. The big one was that he's on the national cancer board (or whatever the title is) while his company is actively lobbying that group on the classification of formaldehyde. That seems like a pretty significant conflict of interest.

The next one, which I know is ad hominem and not dispositive of anything unsavory, but I don't think it's completely w/o substance to point out that the Kochs do stand to gain very significantly if their agenda for a lighter regulatory load is successful. Especially since Charles did say specifically that they withdraw funding when a group starts saying things they don't like.

And while I know I'd have to turn my libertarian card in if I came out against the Kochs' rights to spend their money as they like and support ideas they agree with, I'm not crazy about having a lot of libertarian organizations unable to afford pissing off just two people. That seems like it might stymie libertarians developing in potentially good ways.

If central planning is really bad for an economy, why not also for an ideological movement?

John said...

David: Isn't the lack of coercion a pretty significant differentiating factor between your two examples?

David Stearns said...

John. Yes, it is. Absolutely. And that's the main reason I wouldn't want to interfere with them or their right to support causes they see as worthy. But there are two reasons that decentralized decision making institutions are supposed to be better. FIrst, that they are more just and allocate resources without theft and coercion. But the second reason is that competing ways of approaching problems and diversity of means will lead to more beneficial results. Its the consequentialist side of the coin that leaves me slightly unsettled.

I would like to know that the scholars at Cato, Mercatus, Reason, etc are competing to come up with the best version of free market ideology possible. I suspect the quality of the dialogue might be better.

For example, I think it's a pretty mainstream libertarian position to think that one of the legitimate areas for government intervention is environmental protection (e.g. Stossel). But if there's a small number of very wealthy donors (say two of them) who can put pressure on the main libertarian think tanks (a relatively small number) to not think about how environmental regulation can be created in a more libertarian way, I think libertarianism suffers. Of course there should still be groups that argue vociferously against the EPA, what have you, but I do worry about the consequences of having the movement being overly influenced by a couple major donors.

Of course, I don't want to ignore the fact that libertarianism is not the brain child of the Kochs, as the article seems to imply, nor that there are plenty of libertarians who are thinking very independently of these to most wealthy/prominent ones.

I just think it's a legitimate concern if we see that the development of libertarian ideas is becoming more dependent on what just a couple people think is the "right" way to do libertarianism, we shouldn't be surprised if that has the same stultifying effect on libertarian ideas and scholarship in some areas as the same kind of direction in the economy would have on innovation. Again, I don't want to oversell the worry, nor to say that all libertarian thinking is happening in lock-step with the Kochs (e.g. KPC), but I think this could be at least worth considering. Please let me know if you think I'm an idiot, too. I'd love to see me proven wrong.

John said...

No, I completely understand your point. I think I read into your initial statement more equivalence than you intended.

Steve said...

"Poor, lonely Steve needs to get out more."

Is this supposed to be a zinger?

" He thinks libertarians are "more or less tone-deaf on [civil liberties] outside of drug laws and certain free speech cases." "

Yeah, you prioritize economic liberty over civil. When faced with a choice between coalitions you go with the one that aligns with your ideas about economic liberty.

"And, with all of the above needing attention, somehow the "incremental slide toward authoritarianism, has been proven wrong"? Steve should go sass a cop ... or just try to get on a plane with a bottle of water."

Hayek was talking about Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia. The above sound more like the problems in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

I'm more concerned about innocent brown people being held in legal limbo, tortured, held in isolation, etc for years on end. That's what Jane Mayer writes about, she's out there writing our RTS's. You seem unfamiliar with her work and uninterested in these issues.