Thanks for Pitching The Road to Serfdom. Now Please Get Lost.

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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39 Responses

  1. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    My guess is you’re buying gold!Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      There are two sure signs that when taken together prove the existence of an asset bubble.

      The first is a record high price for the asset.

      The second is paid pitchmen selling the stuff on TV.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Gold is for optimists.

        Buy bullets.Report

        • Avatar Simon K says:

          Bullets after all are useful. I’d get some canned food, too. I often wonder what exactly it is about shiny yellow metal that makes people think it will be in demand after the collapse of civilization. Especially ETF shares and futures in shiny yellow metal.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            When we return to worshipping the sun, after the collapse, gold we once again be valued because it seems to contain some of the magic essence of the sun. Of course.Report

          • Avatar James K says:

            It depends on what you’re hedging against. If it’s total civilisational collapse you’re worried about then buy canned goods and shotguns. But if you’re instead worried about an oppressive domestic government that you might have to flee, then gold is a highly portable and anonymous store of value.

            Of course that would only justify holding gold in person, not any form of gold derivative.Report

        • I’m thinking about buying some chocolate futures.Report

      • Avatar Simon K says:

        The guideline I heard the other day is that once an asset is being pitched to amateurs and those amateurs appear to be making out, that’s when there’s an asset bubble. The primary evidence given was the rash of “Flip This House” type TV shows in the run-up of the housing bubble, in which idiots apparently made fortunes by gluing crown molding to their walls and selling the house for a 50% markup to other idiots. Judging from Glenn Beck and the sidebar ads of many economics blogs, now is the time to get out of gold …Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      I’m not sure whether that counts for me or against me. I certainly wouldn’t buy gold right now, though.Report

    • Avatar Simon K says:

      Not really surprised. Soros is a professional speculator – when he sees a bubble he’s going to want to buy in. For most of us, if we see a bubble we should run the hell the other way.Report

  2. Avatar MFarmer says:

    “I’m not sure whether that counts for me or against me”

    It has nothing to do with you, I don’t think. I was answering the coment attacks against Beck related to gold.

    However, it is funny to see you defending Soros against Beck’s expose when Beck has mainly used Soro’s actions and words and told everyone to decide for themselves. If I have to choose between Soros and Beck, I’m going with Beck. It’s about time someone in the media showed Soros as he is.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      I don’t understand how anyone can say that “Beck has mainly used Soros’s actions and words and told everyone to decide for themselves.”

      Saying that he overturned governments while neglecting to mention that they were authoritarian communist governments isn’t letting people decide for themselves. It’s stacking the deck. Or do you really believe that we’d be better off if communism were still around? Because that’s the inescapable implication of painting Soros’s work here as a bad thing.

      Soros’s actions in the United States, as pointed out in the video, aren’t all that different from plenty of other billionaires who own media companies. It’s preposterous to suggest, as Beck very clearly does, that Soros is plotting a revolution here. It’s a conspiracy theory, no more and no less.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        Does Cato endorse Soros’s activities?Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          Cato doesn’t issue official endorsements. Scholars think what they think about various things. Much of Soros’s work is certainly toward things that Cato scholars have advocated, including decriminalizing marijuana and working against communist and authoritarian regimes overseas.

          Much of his work, of course, is not well aligned with the views of Cato scholars, notably his support for McCain-Feingold. Soros is by no means an undiluted good when it comes to his political activism.

          What I found objectionable here wasn’t that Beck opposed Soros, but rather that he took something he would have praised in almost any other context and twisted it beyond recognition.Report

      • So…I just watched the actual Glenn Beck video in question for the first time (ie, the one where Soros’ support for anti-Communist revolutions is portrayed). Before today, I had basically assumed it was just the latest non-troversy, and that in context Beck’s use of those actions would just be ambiguous at worst.

        But, uhh, wow. In context, it’s nothing short of completely indefensible and outright bizarre. It’s completely explicit in claiming that “Soros has funded all these revolutions, and the US is next on his list,” and given the way in which Soros is unfailingly portrayed as a leftist, the only way the claim is coherent is if Beck is trying to show that Soros is trying to create a left-wing authoritarian revolution. But of course, every single revolution Soros supported was an anti-authoritarian revolution that aimed at instituting (and did institute), in effect, more free market (and American-style) governance.

        Providing that information would make Beck’s point completely and utterly incoherent, since it would mean that either Soros is trying to create a revolution in the US in order to install a more American-style government, or that Soros isn’t trying to stir up a revolution in the US at all. So he chooses not to provide it.

        This is not simply saying “decide for yourselves, audience.” This is saying “Soros is trying to fund a left-wing authoritarian revolution here in the US. Don’t believe me? Well, look at all the revolutions he’s funded abroad.” If that’s the only information one has, then it’s pretty easy to conclude that Beck’s on to something. But what if you are told that each of those revolutions was in fact an anti-authoritarian, pro-market, and generally pro-American revolution? Suddenly Beck’s preferred conclusions aren’t so easy to reach. In fact, they’re impossible to reach because it’s inconceivable that someone who has solely ever funded anti-left-wing-authoritarian/pro-American revolutions abroad would suddenly be seeking to fund a pro-left-wing-authoritarian/anti-American revolution in the US.Report

        • Avatar Koz says:

          “In fact, they’re impossible to reach because it’s inconceivable that someone who has solely ever funded anti-left-wing-authoritarian/pro-American revolutions abroad would suddenly be seeking to fund a pro-left-wing-authoritarian/anti-American revolution in the US.”

          I don’t endorse Beck or the video because I haven’t seen either. Nonetheless, this statement seems wrong to me and Soros is an obvious case in point. Let’s note that Soros’ agitation in Communist countries empowered the citizens there where his political agitation here empowers the political class at their expense.Report

          • I think the point is that based on the evidence provided, that conclusion would be impossible to reach if that evidence were properly stated. As for who benefits from Soros’ activism in the US, I think the obvious answer is that some of it would empower the people and some of it would empower the political class.Report

            • And also – he’s a billionare who funds political causes he likes. There are no shortage of wealthy people who do likewise on any number of causes. Rarely do such funders have any significant involvement in the day to day operations and issue selection and strategy of those causes. Yet Soros and the Koch brothers somehow are presumed to be “different” since they fund so many political causes. This is pretty silly in the extreme, assuming that Soros and the Koch brothers are superhumans with sufficient time to exert direct and dominating influence over an unheard-of number of political causes while also running large and successful businesses.Report

            • Avatar Simon K says:

              I don’t know what he’s doing at the Federal level, but here in California he’s paying for things would most definitely disempower our current political class.Report

            • Avatar Koz says:

              I don’t see how it benefits the people, specifically our sovereignty. Let’s note that United States already is an open society and has been since before Soros got here.

              To me, Soros seems like a Euro-style bureaucrat frustrated that, collectively at least, we can’t get a half dozen regulators in a room and in Brussels and set policy for the United States like happens for Europe.

              I’m not conspiritorially minded guy on this one. IMO, rich people who want to spend their money in service of their political/cultural causes should more or less be allowed to do it. If Beck wants to go after Soros, I wish he’d use more straight-up argument and less hype and atmospherics.

              I will say Beck’s train of thought makes more sense than your typical commenter at Balloon Juice or wherever, though admittedly that’s a low bar. Nonetheless such people seem to be taken seriously in various places, in particular here. To wit, the leftosphere took very seriously, no more than six weeks ago the proposition that the Chamber of Commerce was buying the election. In any case, such things are important developments. But whichever side you’re on, I wish people would make a clearer argument for why we can or should try to stop somebody from goring your particular ox.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Mark, I think the point is that The Jew– sorry, I mean, Soros, is not loyal to any nation or ideology. Instead, the Jew— again, sorry! I mean Soros, seeks to ferment revolution and social collapse in order to further his own shadowy behind-the-scenes control of events and nations, turn people against one another, aggrandize his own wealth, and derive pleasure. It is in his nature… as a Soros.

          Incidentally, let me just mention that I support Israel. Unlike the eternally wicked Soros who has no loyalty.Report

  3. Avatar MFarmer says:

    “Saying that he overturned governments while neglecting to mention that they were authoritarian communist governments isn’t letting people decide for themselves”

    I watched the episodes and listened to the radio sow — Beck stated over and over that the regimes were authoritarian — Beck didn’t hide these facts — he was making a point that Soros said it was “fun” — he was showing Soros’s God complex and international power — then there was the England deal — Soros compared himself to God.. Soros has made claims about his plans, Jason — he says America is an obstacle to his plans — in his words.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      You do realize you’re just digging the hole deeper, right? Now overturning even admittedly authoritarian governments is a bad thing. What’s next, is it wrong to cure cancer?

      Or is it only bad if you enjoy doing it?

      I don’t doubt there are things Soros would like to do that America won’t let him do. The idea that he’s trying to foment a revolution here still doesn’t pass the giggle test.Report

  4. Avatar MFarmer says:

    Jason, I do respect you, but I think you are falling for the liberal group-think and concerted effort to destroy Beck. I’m a libertarian — I have problems with some of Beck’s religious views and I’ve blogged about them, but 97% of what Beck is saying is dead on — but you have to know what he’s said — you can’t take second hand, liberal accounts — they are spinning what Beck says.Report

    • Avatar RTod says:

      ” but 97% of what Beck is saying is dead on”

      OK, just so I know I’ve got this straight…

      The various artistic aesthetics used in 1920s and 30s New York architecture that prove without a doubt that a cabal of wealthy Jews are about to hatch their scheme to force a communist regime that will enslave us all – is that part of the 97% or does that fall into the other 3?Report

  5. Avatar MFarmer says:

    Because so many smart, seemingly fair people have made extreme statements about Beck, it has made me second guess what I thought I had heard Beck say, so I’ve gone back to listen, puting it all in context. I’ve concluded that the left has an irrational vendetta against Beck — it’s becoming dangerously close to a mob mentality. As someone who values honesty and objectivity, I can’t jump on this destroy-Beck bandwagon.Report

    • So it is perfectly honest and fair to put out a video claiming that George Soros is trying to fund a left-wing authoritarian revolution in the United States, for which the sole evidence provided is that Soros has helped fund several revolutions in the past without providing the slightest indication that each of those revolutions was in fact an anti-left-wing authoritarian/pro-American/pro-market revolution?Report

    • Avatar Herb says:

      “I’ve concluded that the left has an irrational vendetta against Beck — it’s becoming dangerously close to a mob mentality”

      Yeah, it probably looks that way from the Doom Room.Report

  6. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Didn’t Naomi Klein make exactly the same argument about Milton Friedman? I mean, I’m just curious what people thought of The Shock Doctrine.Report

    • Avatar Simon K says:

      It is possible that Naomi Klein is more pernicious and willfully ignorant than Glenn Beck. Its not exactly a high standard to hold him to, though.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        Right, but I think they’re willfully ignorant and pernicious in much the same way. “Why do disastrous events happen around the world? Because someone wants them to happen, and I’m going to tell you who and their five-point plan to ferment destruction.” I just wonder if the popularity of this sort of tripe from the left and the right comes from a widespread desire to uncover the same kind of conspiracy, or just an inability that sometimes shit really does happen without a global mastermind.Report

  7. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    I’m curious whether, if Cato indeed were merely a wholly-controlled tool of the Koch brothers plan for world domination, that fact would be regularly discussed in the offices, and whether it would be certain that all of the Institute’s intellectual talent would be self-consciously toiling away at the task of providing theoretical superstructure to adorn the brothers’ world-material agenda(s).Report

  8. Avatar tom van dyke says:

    Until I hear Beck quoted directly, this and the zillion other attacks on him I find on the internet are of no value.

    What I get from this so far is that without question, with a million here and a million there, Soros plays on a macro and international scale beyond the imagination of other wannabe gamechangers like Scaife or the Koches.

    And no matter the extent of Beck’s influence, it pales beside Soros’, which moves nations across the world.

    There’s no doubt that Soros has opposed bad guys. The question is how much he thinks America is a bad guy, and what he’s doing to shake our tree. The rest is sideshow, or in the case of attacking Beck

    http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/12/glenn-beck-sees-george-soros-as-iran-does/

    …diversion.Report

  9. Avatar tom van dyke says:

    Yes, RTod, that’s the topic. I’m not particularly interested in defending Beck or even attacking Soros. I just want to know what he’s up to. I have a better idea now after hitting the internet for myself. I can’t think of anyone like him who tips the scales here and there and here on such a global level. NGOs, political parties, financial markets. It’s really quite fascinating. Scaife and the Koches simply don’t rate.

    It just hit me that the NYT times guy lumping Beck in with the Iranian mullahs

    http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/12/glenn-beck-sees-george-soros-as-iran-does/

    is the same sort of innuendo that Beck is excoriated for. But when the NYT types do it, it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. And so it goes.Report