Think Tank Wars

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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50 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I didn’t read the post but unless you mentioned the Koch brothers, you’re a hack! A DISHONEST HACK!Report

  2. Avatar DougJ says:

    I’ve said this a couple times before and not gotten a reply (that’s not a complaint, just explaining why I’m repeating myself)…The difference between libertarianism and liberalism or conservatism is that libertarianism doesn’t have much infrastructure beyond a few think tanks and a money-losing magazine (and maybe a few Rush albums, to be fair).

    There are almost no elected officials, no real political party, etc. It’s not the existence of Koch-funded operations, it’s the dependence on Koch-funded operations. You see what I mean?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      There are almost no elected officials, no real political party, etc. It’s not the existence of Koch-funded operations, it’s the dependence on Koch-funded operations.

      Imagine the wonders that you will finally be able to create once the Kochs are dead and the libertarians finally have to get government jobs if they want a decent paycheck.Report

      • Avatar DougJ says:

        Imagine the wonders that you will finally be able to create once the Kochs are dead and the libertarians finally have to get government jobs if they want a decent paycheck.

        That’s the best you can do? How old are you?Report

        • Avatar KenB says:

          I’d say he’s mature enough to realize that there’s no point in putting out the effort to have a serious conversation with someone whose mind is already made up.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          Actually, DougJ’s questions to Jaybird are juvenile cliches, which brings us to irony.

          As to his critique of libertarianism, all I have to say is that dependency or counter-Koch, or even Koch-head, the salient point is that legitimacy is bi-functional when adherents, although small in number, transcend the numerical smallness and transcend dependency as a dual manisfestation of ideological phallic symbols and freedom buttons on the lapel of billionaire, but that doesn’t relegate the libertarian to oblivion — far from it, Mr DougJ, if that’s even your real name!Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          You know, I consider myself a student of history.

          I’ve been reading up on WWII. Germany.

          People went up to the Chancellor every now and again and they played the dozens, you know how it is, and the Furher won quite regularly (I don’t know how often his opponents threw the game, of course).

          In any case, if the histories are true, when it comes to steppin’, you’re worse than Hitler.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Okay, fine. More seriously.

          You say: There are almost no elected officials, no real political party, etc. It’s not the existence of Koch-funded operations, it’s the dependence on Koch-funded operations.

          And yet Libertarianism seems to be the bugbear of Balloon Juice.

          This wild group folks who have almost no elected officials nor a real political party (the last time they got even 1% was 1980!) is worth your precious time and your precious bile.

          Hell, libertarians are over-represented on the intertubes to an amazing degree (I’m pretty sure that *ALL* of them, actually, are on the internet) while half of the Republicans and Democrats don’t even necessarily own cable television, let alone computers, let alone internet, let alone hang out in blog comment threads or discussion forums.

          Why pour even *HALF* of the effort into Libertarianism that you do?

          Well, one answer to that question might be that Libertarians actually do stuff like “write long essays”. They do stuff like ask interesting questions, poke with interesting barbs, and actually answer questions like That’s the best you can do? How old are you? with essays not entirely unlike this one. Republicans? Feh. They just point out the election results and talk about how “elections have consequences” for the elections they happen to win (just like the Democrats do). This means that Libertarians actually *ENGAGE* in a way that neither party particularly does… even though they happen to be the *OVERWHELMING* majority.

          So, even though Libertarians don’t have enough people to play a game of pick-up basketball, they’re sand worth the pouring of blood and treasure into.

          Which, co-incidentally enough, makes me wonder if the Kochs haven’t noticed this and said “hey, maybe we should give these plucky guys some money and see what happens”… rather than the Kochs *CREATING* Libertarian responses, the Libertarians inspired a Koch response (if you will).

          And just as your inclinations have you pouring your various humours into your keyboard, the Kochs were inspired to pour some money into theirs.

          For my part, I’m not particularly surprised by any of this.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            Hell, libertarians are over-represented on the intertubes to an amazing degree (I’m pretty sure that *ALL* of them, actually, are on the internet)

            Which makes perfect sense: complete freedom to say whatever you like and build whatever structures you like for saying it is a libertarian paradise.

            Plus, with wireless it’s easy to get online from your parents’ basement.Report

            • Avatar Trumwill says:

              I used to comment that hundreds of years from now, when classical majors in foreign countries study the archives of the American way of life from the Internet they’re going to be really confused.

              “In the early 20th century, there were three major ideological groups of relatively equal presence: conservatives, liberals, and libertarians. The last group must have been one of those oppressed minorities and disallowed the franchise, however, because if you look at election results, they’re not there.”Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Plus, with wireless it’s easy to get online from your parents’ basement

              The majority of libertarians that I know (or know of, for that matter) share an odd number of traits… they’re male, they’re caucasian, they’re at least one standard deviation from the mean for intelligence (to the right), they read for pleasure, and they are in the tech industry. Oh, and they’re a little bit aspy.

              This tends (tends, mind) to mean that they’re on their own because they tend to be able to afford to be on their own.

              I know of a particular guy who got into tech and made, like, a freakin’ MINT. He bought his parents’ house and his parents live with him. That’s a different dynamic, though.

              And, of course, if you were just making a funny, I would like to apologize for not having a sense of humor.Report

            • Avatar MFarmer says:

              Parent’s basement? Minus 6 points — clicheReport

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                Parents’ — minus 1 point

                But we’re still winning here.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                “Parents'” is correct. Look it up.Report

              • Avatar Bo says:

                I think the point was that he mis-apostrophized it in his post, not about yours.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Right you are. -3 to my side for missing that. (But we won the World Series, so we have the points to give.)Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Of course it’s a cliche. That was the point. (Is it a cliche that libertarians have no sense of humor, or just an unfortunate fact?)Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                Are you saying you’ve never laughed at my crazy posts like above, my witty quips? Come on, Mike, be honest. I think you just want to see us that way, so you can feel humor-superior — oh yeah, you’re Jon Stewart and I’m a square dude named Murray. You are hanging around the wrong libertarians — check our Starchild in San Francisco — that dude is like the hippest of hip, bro.

                -4 points

                We’re kicking ass, now.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Hip? This “points to Gryffendor” thing is so aughts.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                “Hip? This “points to Gryffendor” thing is so aughts.”

                That’s part of the self-effacing humor. Minus 4 points for misdirection dissing.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                “Of course it’s a cliche. That was the point.”

                Let’s look at this, along with the point that the libertarian movement is small and underfunded. First, cliche is antithetical to libertarianism which, for the most part, supports non-coercion and free markets, which creates change and dynamism — we are actually on the cutting edge, whereas liberals and progressives are in the 30s again, like kidney stones passing slowly through FDR’s johnson (yes, the slang word “johnson” was intentional). Plus, it’s the left which claims that populism is white-trash because the majority of American citizens are goobers, and that the intellectual elite are in the exclusive, nuanced know, so claiming more popularity and popular support than libertarians, proves something contrary than you probably want to prove. Of course libertarian support is smaller — we’re visionaries on the edge of the Great Palooza, pilgrims of kinky cyber-space, sea residents of the next Water World. Of course our following is small, we’re individuals, Dylans of the changin’ times, not groupies in the collective boy-band of statism.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                -10 points for posting while stoned.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                Are you kidding? That’s worth 20 points.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                remove the comma between libertarians and proves.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                contrary to what you want to prove.

                I’m making up for lost points.Report

          • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

            Jaybird – this response was spot-on by the way. I keep meaning to mention that.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            And yet Libertarianism seems to be the bugbear of Balloon Juice.

            This wild group folks who have almost no elected officials nor a real political party (the last time they got even 1% was 1980!) is worth your precious time and your precious bile.

            Hell, libertarians are over-represented on the intertubes to an amazing degree (I’m pretty sure that *ALL* of them, actually, are on the internet) while half of the Republicans and Democrats don’t even necessarily own cable television, let alone computers, let alone internet, let alone hang out in blog comment threads or discussion forums.

            Why pour even *HALF* of the effort into Libertarianism that you do?

            The reason is that libertarianism provides much of the intellectual bones of the economic case that the Republican Party uses to try to win elections, and that is the part of their argument that has brought them unexpectedly quickly back after the other prongs of their message (social conservatism and foreign policy “strength”) led them into historically rocky waters. To be sure, from the perspective of libertarians, Republicans once in office are horrible economically (preserving subsidies and protectionism, being captured by large interests and the like), but when the battle of ideas is being fought on economic policy simply in the course of debate, making gains against the libertarian position is equivalent to making gains against conservatism and the Republican Party.

            That’s your answer. That, and the fact that some liberals just react itchily to the simple, unchanging answers to policy questions that they perceive libertarianism to offer.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              To be sure, from the perspective of libertarians, Republicans once in office are horrible economically (preserving subsidies and protectionism, being captured by large interests and the like), but when the battle of ideas is being fought on economic policy simply in the course of debate, making gains against the libertarian position is equivalent to making gains against conservatism and the Republican Party.

              This is an interesting point but what happens in practice?

              Republicans adopt a libertarian stance.
              Republicans get elected.
              Republicans abandon libertarian stance.

              As much as I can see hating Republicans as a reason to get out of bed in the morning, I don’t see how this is a dynamic worth yelling at Libertarians about.

              Hell, if I were going to mock Libertarians, I’d say something like the following:

              Hey, you know how whenever you argue against Marxists, they all pull the “it’s never been tried, you can’t blame us for the stuff they defended as authentic at the time because it wasn’t really authentic” thing? You sound just like that. Only with fewer female or minority voices.

              Instead, the argument is that people we don’t vote for and don’t particularly support co-opt our arguments and then abandon them once they achieve power. This strikes me as fertile ground for something like “our arguments resonate with disenfranchised people which is why they’re co-opted! Our ideas will result in less government power! Which is why the government abandons them!”

              To focus on the fact that the ideas are co-opted (whether or not they’re subsequently abandoned… which they usually are) doesn’t strike me as a particularly good argument against the ideas themselves.

              And the best joke to close with would be a variant of “after all, it’s not like it’s ever been put into practice” but I’m not in the mood.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I’m not focusing on that fact qua an argument against libertarian ideas, I’m referencing the fact that the ideas are marketed by political foes to explain why people bother attacking the ideas of a marginal group. This is not to say that these people don’t want to resist the libertarian ideas per se, but your question was why they bother when (you say) they are only the ideas of a marginalized political group. And I say that rhetorically they are aped by a major political party, so that is why they bother attacking the ideas rather than just not bothering at all, even though in eather case they still object to the ideas. As to why they bother attacking libertarians per se and not the ideas, well, libertarians may just bother them either in the way they argue, or inasmuch as they provide a lot of the ideas that political parties that they don’t want to see in power use to get into power. The latter isn’t entirely fair, I’d grant, unless it is the case that libertarians would prefer for one party to at least mouth support for versions of their ideas regardless of what they do in office, to having both parties dismiss even a rhetorical sop to the ideas (Freddie has a whole post on this up about how he can;t even get that much love for his Left). If that’s the case, then I think it’s perfectly fair for people to note that connection and mutual support as far as it goes and have opinions about it.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Obviously if all that is done is to say, “Libertarian ideas are co-opted for political gains by the Republican Party, so I stand against those ideas!”, then that is not much of an argument against the ideas. But that is not all that is done; many substantive arguments are advanced. Your question was, why bother, since libertarians are so marginalized? So I gave the answer.Report

  3. Avatar Bo says:

    The Koch father sponsored the John Birch Society; the sons sponsor Cato; kinda does make you wonder what the next Koch generation will sponsor. I’m guessing either generic do-gooderism, … or Somalia.Report

    • Avatar MFarmer says:

      Maybe they will buy Somalia and redeem the suspicions of the left — turn it into a libertarian Disney World.Report

      • Avatar Bo says:

        That’s what I was thinking. They’d get so sick of hearing about Somalia that they’d buy it and turn it from a lawless heckhole into a lawless paradise. That’d be a kick in the teeth to us liberal chatterers. They’re probably worth more than Somalia already, so they could just buy it outright instead of getting saddled with a big mortgage like you or I would be. It’s a better idea than Rapture at least.Report

  4. Avatar Bo says:

    Personally, I’d take the observation that Libertarians have been considerably more politically engaged than the average joe for decades while securing no meaningful constituency as a caution rather than a defense. Political movements can live off a sugar daddy’s bank account for a while, but supposing that you’re being so engaging that he’ll want to support you forever just sounds foolhardy.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I’ll keep commenting here long after Froot Loops stops paying for my commentary. How could I not? A good breakfast featuring Froot Loops will have you raring to comment all day!Report

      • Avatar Bo says:

        I’m not saying that if an oil tycoon showed up at my door, I wouldn’t be thinking, “Hey, there’s really only one letter difference between Bo and BP.”Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Well, the point that I was more trying to make was that I have these opinions, like, because I have them.

          They weren’t thrust upon me, they’re not paid opinions (to clarify, I receive *NO* money from Froot Loops), and I thought about them before I embraced them (and, believe it or not, I continue to think about them and shave off this part or build up that part as time goes on).

          The argument that I (or, at least, a number of folks out there) wouldn’t have these opinions were it not for a couple of dudes on the East Coast strikes me as absolutely absurd. I know, more or less, how I came to my opinions.

          I was there.

          To focus on some couple of guys on the East Coast as if that were some sort of argument rather than arguing against my opinions (hey! My opinions have arguments against them! I think about these arguments regularly!) indicates, to me, some sort of misunderstanding so fundamental that it’s hard to take the disagreement seriously.

          The closest analogy I can come up with would be “you’re only a Democrat because you know you can’t hold a job”. There are so many bad assumptions, accusations of bad faith, and dismissed alternate explanations that it’s a downright bigoted statement.

          To see DougJ (among others) embrace this bad assumption, make so many accusations of bad faith, and dismiss alternate explanations so quickly and easily makes me wonder what in the hell happened to him that someone who seems otherwise vaguely rational would turn, in a flash, into someone making and, I assume, believing such a crappy argument.

          Hell, maybe he’s receiving money to say such things. (That would certainly explain it!)Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            It is suggestive, though, that your first idea for a libertarian sponsor was “Froot Loops”.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Yesterday, I heard of a restaurant in Denver called “The Shoppe”. It’s, apparently, a “breakfast bar”. Someone took his kid there and the kid had Cocoa Krispies with chocolate chips sprinkled on top and splashed chocolate milk on them. This led, as such information does, to the “what would *YOU* order?” conversation and my answer was “Froot Loops, plain, with half&half”.

              So I’ve had Froot Loops on the brain for the last day.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Must… resist…. straight… line….Report

              • Avatar Bo says:

                You know, it took the 3rd repetition of Froot Loops before it occurred to me that it was actually spelled ‘Froot’ rather than ‘Fruit’. I sure hope that’s not the FDA censoring our hardworking industrial chemists.Report

          • Avatar Bo says:

            A government, too, is merely an opinion with an army.Report

    • Avatar MFarmer says:

      Don’t even suggest Koch would stop my support checks. Damn, it’s frightening. I think this is getting a little silly — Koch, Cato, Reason, the LP, none of tem own libertarian ideas — they’ll be kept alive, well, at least another decade, when my family history says I should kick the bucket. Now if you really want to talk about a marginal effect, just think about libertarian ideas depending on my support.Report