A horse that knows arithmetic

Corporations and rich people own the media and fund all the think tanks. Why is it cynical and reductionist of me to think that this means media and think tanks will generally produce things that corporations and rich people like? Yes, corporations want to make money so if a media employee genuinely brings in ad money, he may be allowed to say things that criticize corporations and rich people, but other than that, what’s the incentive for corporate media to criticize corporations? Think tanks have no possibility at all of making money so the only incentive there is to produce the kind of propaganda the donors like. Example: Steve Clemons reported a few months ago about how Brookings hired Robert Kagan to try go get more money from the neocon donor, Haim Saban. And Brookings is viewed as one of the more respectable think tanks.

Cato and Reason are partly funded by the Koch brothers. That is why they will generally produce pro-corporate stuff, regardless of what the real definition of libertarianism is. Now, there are a lot of good, smart writers at Cato, and they may occasionally go off the reservation and attack corporate excess. But when the chips are down, you know which way they’re going to go. And, no, I don’t expect MoveOn to launch a campaign against currency traders anytime soon either.

You always hear this stuff from media/think tank types where they say “hey, the Koch brothers never pressured me personally” or “I’ve never ever met the CEO of Time-Warner/GE, how could he be bullying me?” etc. I would suggest the reason that they have the job in the first place is that they’ve either always said the kind of stuff the CEO/donor likes anyway or that they, like the famous horse who knew arithmetic, have an innate sense of what kinds of answers please their masters.

I don’t see how things could possibly be otherwise.

Update. I didn’t mean this to target libertarianism specifically (you’ll note I brought up one liberal organization and one centrist organization as well). But, on further reflection libertarianism does in fact rely more on think tanks and vanity project media, because it doesn’t have much in the way of party infrastructure.

131 replies
  1. 1
    cathyx says:

    Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

  2. 2
    schrodinger's cat says:

    A horse that knows arithmetic

    Does that include long division?

  3. 3
    gnomedad says:

    Genius title.

  4. 4
    Silver says:

    Since we’re in the age of the new reasonableness now, I’d suggest mentioning this, for the sake of Stewartan balance. Apparently Matt couldn’t count like the horse:

    http://yglesias.thinkprogress......third_way/

    I’d also suggest that not mentioning it would be blood libel directed specifically at me.

    (Did you see Dershowitz said it’s kosher for anyone to use the term, no matter the context? On a side note, I wonder if that means we should torture Dershowitz to find out if the Jews really do kill Christian children for their blood. Maybe we can get a torture warrant, or something?)

  5. 5
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    @Silver:

    That’s a good example too.

  6. 6
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    There are limits to acceptable discourse.

    Always.

    During Katrina, one group of people were characterized as “looters”, the others, engaging in identical behavior, were characterized as “scavengers”.

    Three guesses, first two don’t count, where this is leading…

  7. 7
    MikeJ says:

    Libertarians believe that people will always do what’s in their economic best interest, unless they work for the Koch brothers.

  8. 8
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Come on, you are making everything seem black and white.

  9. 9
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @MikeJ:

    Reminds me of all these economists who think that the monetary incentives that rule the marketplace don’t apply to them and the grants they receive…

  10. 10
    Mark S. says:

    Green balloons! We’re overdosing on libertarianism.

    But it is amusing that libertarians seem completely oblivious to the fact that nearly all of their proposals would have the happy effect of making super-rich people even richer. Free-dumb!

  11. 11
    cleek says:

    i’ve been through the desert on a horse that knows arithmetic. it felt good to be away from my calculator.

  12. 12
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I see that you saw what I did there…

  13. 13
    ChrisS says:

    “the real definition of libertarianism is. ”

    I don’t think we should have to pay taxes.

    DONE.

  14. 14
    trollhattan says:

    I’m informed that global warming is a hoax because Soros owns all the scientists. Can the Koch bros not afford scientists of their own? Inquiring minds….

  15. 15
    MikeJ says:

    @cleek: It felt good because it cured your gastritis.

  16. 16
    gnomedad says:

    @Mark S.:

    But it is amusing that libertarians seem completely oblivious to the fact that nearly all of their proposals would have the happy effect of making super-rich people even richer.

    But that’s a lesser evil than “coercion”, of which there are exactly two kinds: taxes and regulation.

  17. 17
    Judas Escargot says:

    Why is it cynical and reductionist of me to think that this means media and think tanks will generally produce things that corporations and rich people like?

    Because Chomsky’s been saying this for over three decades. So therefore it must be radical/bad. (Only half-kidding here).

    I remember watching some documentary on Chomsky, where one of the interviewees was Thomas Wolfe. When asked about Chomsky’s position on this, Wolfe rolled his eyes in exasperation, hissing out “there is no cabal” in reply.

    But Wolfe, like many others, misses the point: Chomsky’s never claimed that there’s a roomful of people, planning what will and what will not be published. This sounds like a full-blown conspiracy claim, which most sane folks instinctively avoid.

    But Chomsky, like most science types, is a process thinker. He’s only claimed that, given the system we have, certain stories will get coverage, while others will not. It doesn’t have to be intentional, and in most cases it probably isn’t: It’s just an aggregate behavior, arising from certain conditions.

    This is a subtle distinction (which I haven’t done a very good job of explaining), but I do think this is the crux of it.

  18. 18
    Punchy says:

    Which famous whores knew arithmetic?

  19. 19
  20. 20
    E.D. Kain says:

    But this applies to every political group! You can’t attack libertarianism as an idea by going after the funders of a think tank any more than you can attack liberalism by going after the funders of liberal think tanks.

  21. 21
    mistermix says:

    Here’s a concrete example from Cato:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/blo.....itute.aspx

  22. 22
    georgia pig says:

    @cleek: I was more thinking a horse that knows arithmetic but forgot his own name. May we move on from libertarianism? You’ve definitely chewed away all of the flavor. BTW, why does it seem that conservatives and libertarians often feel compelled to self-identify as hewing to an abstract “school of thought,” rather than plain old-fashioned interests? Is it like the guy who tells his date “I only want us to go to bed so I can hold you and feel close?” I think most left-leaning folks quit identifying with Marx and other abstract schools of thought after the 60’s and 70’s, and everybody familiar with those days knows that sporting a Che attitude was often just a move to get pussy. Somehow, I think Burke and Oakeshott would be less effective.

  23. 23
    Stillwater says:

    I don’t see how things could possibly be otherwise.

    Even with more tax cuts and deregulation?

  24. 24
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    DougJ, Costello again?

  25. 25
    J. Michael Neal says:

    @E.D. Kain: The point is that the funders of libertarianism bring a lot of money to the table. The funders of liberalism, on the other hand, fall into one of two categories:

    1) They aren’t very liberal, or
    2) They don’t have a lot of money.

    This means that the political discourse is constrained, because it’s only going to go where the money is.

  26. 26
    Politically Lost says:

    I thought Chomsky captured this perfectly:

    “In short, the major media are corporations “selling” privileged audiences to other businesses … Media concentration is high, and increasing. Furthermore, those who occupy managerial positions in the media … belong to the same privileged elites, and might be expected to share the perceptions, aspirations, and attitudes of their associates, reflecting their own class interests as well. Journalists entering the system are unlikely to make their way unless they conform to these ideological pressures, generally by internalizing their values … Those who do not conform will be weeded out.”

    That quote is from the back cover of Necessary Illusions published in 1999.

    I believe that this is entirely accurate. This was written just a few years after the horrid telecommunications act of 1996 was passed. The level of concentration of media ownership has increased to such a degree now that only major foundational shifts in media ownership will effect any meaningful change away from Chomsky’s astute observation.

  27. 27
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    You can’t attack libertarianism as an idea by going after the funders of a think tank any more than you can attack liberalism by going after the funders of liberal think tanks.

    I’m not. I mentioned Brookings, for example. And I also referred to MoveOn.org

    But I do think that libertarianism is more of a Potemkin political movement, since it relies so heavily on think tanks and subsidized media, as opposed to local political committees.

  28. 28
    Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel) says:

    Well said, Clever HansJarvis Green-Ellis.

  29. 29
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Great song, no? The first Elvis song I ever heard.

  30. 30
    pragmatism says:

    @E.D. Kain: doug’s not attacking libertarians by going after the funders. he’s noting that it is human and equine nature to please your masters. no victims here, just discourse.

  31. 31
    Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel) says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Uncomplicated. Another of my faves.

  32. 32
    mr. whipple says:

    Why is it cynical and reductionist of me to think that this means media and think tanks will generally produce things that corporations and rich people like?

    Remember how the cigarette companies managed to magically find doctors that said smoking was perfectly safe? (And before that, doctors to say a particular brand was the healthiest.)

    Same thing.

  33. 33
    Stillwater says:

    @E.D. Kain: Both sides do it!

  34. 34
    trollhattan says:

    And another thing… Nobody with even a quarter brain can take “Libertarians” seriously after observing them emerge from their think tanks long enough to run for office. Here’s who they managed to field for governor in the nation’s largest state:

    http://www.daleogden.org/

    Give me Basil Marceaux dot com over this hump, anyday.

  35. 35
    ThresherK says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: “Scavengers”? I thought I saw the caption on the photograph I think you’re commenting of with an even more benign term. Weren’t they “foraging” for food and/or supplies?

    (Ex: Crows and rats are “scavengers”. Deer and campers who know how to survive on wild plants, should the need arise, are “foragers”.)

  36. 36
    mr. whipple says:

    @Stillwater:

    Yup. Even if they don’t.

  37. 37
    pragmatism says:

    @Stillwater: we need a drudge-like false equivalence siren.

  38. 38
    va says:

    @E.D. Kain: You can criticize libertarians for accepting funding from the wealthy/powerful and typing articles that are pleasing to the wealthy/powerful when they make claims on our attention on the grounds that they’re “anti-power.”

  39. 39
    Bob says:

    “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

    Glib, easy, lazy, but also true.

    Also too, just for fun, “wage slave.”

  40. 40
    PurpleGirl says:

    @jeffreyw: Pet pictures are always welcome. They cute.

  41. 41
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @DougJarvus Green-Ellis: For me it was “This Year’s Girl.”

    @Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel): Is Jewish Steel a guitar on which one plays Klesmer and Western?

  42. 42
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    any more than you can attack liberalism by going after the funders of liberal think tanks.

    Before making this comparison you might want to do some research regarding the origins of 20th Century Liberalism as a socio-political philosophy and its roots in the social reform movements of the late 19th Cen. which were spawned in the wake of industrialization. “Well funded” isn’t exactly the first description that springs to mind. Except for William Morris, that is; but then he did design some really excellent high class floral wallpaper, so perhaps we can forgive him for that.

  43. 43
    Stillwater says:

    @Politically Lost: Ahh, you went there. Chomsky is a ‘far left radical’ in these parts, even tho his analysis of opinion-shaping in a market-based, free press is unarguably correct. No good will come of this.

  44. 44
    E.D. Kain says:

    @Stillwater: In this case, yes, both sides do it. Everyone has think tanks.

  45. 45
    ChrisS says:

    @E.D. Kain:
    This whole blog-tastic exercise has been that mainstream libertarianism, as promoted by the think tanks and media, focuses only on government abuse of power … in a way that conveniently benefits the funders of those think tanks and media centers. The results of this are that most libertarians side overwhelmingly with the GOP and advance causes that seemingly contradict professed core values of libertarians. The defense of this lies in the apparent fact that there’s no true libertarian and people can only defend what they themselves believe.

  46. 46
    El Cid says:

    Sociologist of US power, especially the power of the upper classes to dominate overwhelmingly (not perfectly) the political and economic system, G. William Domhoff on how important think tanks are in helping preserve and extend their power in a class-dominated society

    ‘Think tanks’ (especially as launched in the mid- to late-1970s to facilitate a much harder ‘right turn’ by government to corporate interests in a counter attack on the ’30s-’60s tendencies) play a crucial role in creating and emphasizing ideas and faux-academic arguments to be dutifully swallowed and respected by major publications and news broadcasters and their employees, as well as to help bring together the sorts of ‘experts’ and power elites to discuss the issues, give them proper phrasings and backgrounds, and select ‘advisers’ to government to help them get what they want.

    [E]lite universities play a big part in determining what is important to teach, learn, and research, and they train most of the professionals and experts in the country.
    __
    However, it is the foundations, think tanks, and policy-discussion organizations that have the most direct and important influences. Their ideas, criticisms, and policy suggestions go out to the general public through a wide array of avenues, including pamphlets, books, local discussion groups, mass media, and not least, the public relations departments of major corporations. Their materials also reach government through a variety of means…
    __
    It is worthwhile to look a little more closely at the foundations, think tanks, and policy-discussion organizations to show how they function as a “policy-planning network….
    __
    …The role of the think tanks is to suggest new policies to deal with the problems facing the economy and government. Using money from wealthy donors, corporations, and foundations, think tanks hire the experts produced by the graduate departments of the elite universities. The ideas and proposals developed by the experts are disseminated through pamphlets, books, articles in major magazines and newspapers, and, most importantly, through the participation of the experts themselves in the various forums provided by the policy-discussion organizations.
    __
    [“Policy-discussion” organizations are groups or meetings which bring together experts, corporate elites, and leading government officials, sometimes in ways emphasizing their identification with each others, such as the “Aspen Institute”.
    __
    …The existence of the policy-planning network provides evidence for another form of power possessed by the wealthy few: expertise on social and political issues. It is an important complement to the naked economic power possessed by the corporations.

    It’s also worth while to check out the section on policy control by being able to staff various government advisory groups / committees.

  47. 47
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    Cause and effect, again.

    It’s what’s for dinner.

  48. 48
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @ThresherK:

    That may indeed be the case, that is an even more benign term to use. My memory is hazy. But the “looters” part is unmistakable, as we all know that looters are near.

  49. 49
    Politically Lost says:

    @Stillwater:

    I thought he was a Marxist. Anywho…

    Chomsky was definitely part of my college experience, right along with the drug and sex experimentation.

    I think many people fundamentally understand the subtle yet obvious truth that our media is the result of those who survived being “weeded out” .

    However, just talking about this is like shitting in the punch bowl of polite society because corporate ownership dominates the paychecks. And, we need those checks.

  50. 50
    piratedan says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: “and I was caught in the Junction, by a face like a truncheon and I was down upon one knee, stroking her vanity……and you tried soooooo hard, yes you tried sooooo hard, to be like the Big Boys…..”

    who knew that EC had met Caribou Barbie when she was a teen dream?

  51. 51
    ChrisS says:

    @jeffreyw:
    How often do you get Jack clipped?

    Our Jack’s coat seems to grow unruly after 2 months or so …
    Snow Jack!

  52. 52
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @mr. whipple:

    “It’s toasted!”

  53. 53
    mds says:

    Minor point, Mr. Jarvus Green-Ellis Montmorency Fixx: it’s not “CATO,” like the RAND Corporation. It’s “Cato,” as in “legendary inflexible reactionary Roman who tended to be a useful idiot for entrenched economic and political interests.” (I still don’t entirely forgive Trenchard and Gordon for thinking that was such a cool pseudonym for their essays, though they were simply following centuries of poorly-researched panegyrics.)

  54. 54
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    The bottom line is we all know that the looters are near.

    And there is dynamite in the distance.

  55. 55
    Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel) says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    This song could have used exactly what you’re suggesting.

  56. 56
    The Moar You Know says:

    @El Cid: Domhoff was one of my professors at UCSC back in the late 1980s. I regret that I only had him for one quarter, instead of all four years.

    He wasn’t the only great professor I had there, but he’s the only one that seems to be getting any traction outside of the academy (I’ve seen him referenced a lot in the last few years) and that is a good, good thing.

  57. 57
    J. Michael Neal says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    In this case, yes, both sides do it. Everyone has think tanks.

    No, they don’t. Not politically meaningful ones at any rate. It may seem like everyone along the political spectrum has a think tank, but that’s only because anything that could truly be considered leftist has neither a think tank nor any serious political influence. The point of the post is that it’s not a coincidence that these two things both happen to be true.

  58. 58
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @ThresherK: That only works if you don’t want to have any negative connotations to that one group, rather than just less negative ones. After all… they’re all poor, given that the rich ones had already scarpered.

  59. 59
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @mds:

    Mr. Jarvus Green-Ellis Montmorency Fixx:

    I know how it’s spelled, but it’s pronounced Smith.

  60. 60
    Waldo says:

    Sadly, the same can be said about the Democratic Party. Not many anti-corporation Dems survive in the Skinner box of our democracy.

  61. 61
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel): Weirdly, there was a little bit of a skanking rhythm in there.

  62. 62
    aimai says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    Everyone has think tanks! That’s just adorable. Is this the libertarian version of “No one I know voted for Nixon.” ???? Why, no, E.D. Kain, since you are asking: everyone doesn’t have think tanks. I can count on the fingers of no hands the think tanks sponsored by enslaved children, low level sex workers, illegal immigrants, and etc…etc…etc…

    aimai

  63. 63
    mds says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I know how it’s spelled, but it’s pronounced “Smith.”

    If by “Smith,” you mean “Throat Warbler Mangrove,” I will grudgingly accept the admonition.

  64. 64
    BGinCHI says:

    The key point here is in the esteemed blogger and running back’s opening: in this case, both sides DO do it. Maybe more or less, or maybe more to people’s liking on one side or the other, but writers/pundits in the establishment are part of the status quo that holds power. They might nibble the hand that feeds them, but that’s it.

    If think tank writers, or even opinion journos, had tenure, we might see them going after the big game that writes their checks. But with their mortgages and cocktail parties on the line, forget about it.

  65. 65
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    Hey, I said “everyone does it” too, so no need to pick on Kain for being Broderist here. I do think libertarianism relies on think tanks and money-losing media, though, as I added in my update.

  66. 66
    Tony J says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    But this applies to every political group! You can’t attack libertarianism as an idea by going after the funders of a think tank any more than you can attack liberalism by going after the funders of liberal think tanks.

    Sure you can. The think-tanks in question just have to ask themselves “Is this the kind of person we want our political group to be seen to be taking money from?” If not, don’t take money from them, because it does matter.

    Money doesn’t come free, after all. Though it does, in a way, grow on trees.

  67. 67
    Stillwater says:

    @Politically Lost: Chomsky’s not a Marxist, he’s worse: an anarcho-syndicalist. But that’s not the reason he’s perceived to be far left: it’s that he writes about things that make many solid, clear-thinking, liberals uncomfortable. So he’s relegated to whackaloon status.

  68. 68
    BGinCHI says:

    @aimai: This.

    Show me a think tank and I’ll show you the status quo beehive. Or, people who wear suits talking about other people who wear suits.

  69. 69
    Xenos says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    In this case, yes, both sides do it. Everyone has think tanks.

    Surely you can’t be serious.

  70. 70
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    Actually, rethinking everyone does it now. I don’t think there are many legitimately liberal think tanks. Maybe CAP, but that’s about it. And that makes sense, because liberals are more likely to criticize rich people and corporations.

  71. 71
    jeffreyw says:

    @ChrisS:
    Jack looks like he’s having fun! Once or twice a year Mrs J thins and clips the fringes.

  72. 72
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Tony J: There is also the question of whether or not the money comes with strings attached. And are the strings a spider filament or an cable that could support a suspension bridge?

  73. 73
    azlib says:

    @Mark S.:

    But it is amusing that libertarians seem completely oblivious to the fact that nearly all of their proposals would have the happy effect of making super-rich people even richer. Free-dumb!

    Duh! When you think taxation is theft, the result is a foregone conclusion.

  74. 74
    Stillwater says:

    @DougJarvus Green-Ellis: I see. So you’re the one being Broderist here. To make a point. Right.

    ETA: Scratch the above. I see that in a few posts down you’ve come to your sense.

  75. 75
    Ann B. Nonymous says:

    I’m not going to hold that remark of Kain against him–not everyone can think on their feet–but I’m beginning to see that strange little matoko_chan person’s point. There are persistent perceptual biases in Kain’s posts that are immune to Logic, if you’ll pardon me mixing my trolls for the moment. Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric are the three legs of the Trivium. It can’t stand on two and a half.

    (Maybe I should practice matoko’s fanboy language if I am going to agree with him? cudlip! bullshytt! tanj! tanstaafl! froomb! Arigato gozai mas, why does everyone make fun of us?)

  76. 76
    pragmatism says:

    @DougJarvus Green-Ellis: but TEH SOROS exists!!! that totally broderizes everything.

  77. 77
    NonyNony says:

    @DougJarvus Green-Ellis:

    I don’t think there are many legitimately liberal think tanks. Maybe CAP, but that’s about it. And that makes sense, because liberals are more likely to criticize rich people and corporations.

    Or possibly because think tanks were originally created because the research coming out of universities was viewed by the wealthy benefactors of the think tanks as having a “liberal bias” and so a research institute with a distinct agenda was created to “balance” the output of universities.

    Liberal “think tanks” are a recent phenomenon because until recently liberals didn’t see the need to have a partisan group of researchers spouting off with a particular agenda. Despite the fact that this leads to good research, it has turned out to be bad politics, so liberals started thinking that maybe having their own think tank was a good idea. Thus CAP.

  78. 78
    ThresherK says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: No quibble on that: The “looters” part is remembered well, but can’t come up with a cite for those deemed innocent and just trying to survive. I thought my search skillz (no commercial endorsement implied of any search engine) were a bit better.

  79. 79
    adolphus says:

    As a museum professional this post really resonated with me. When asked about the corrupting influence of corporate giving to museums I often respond that it is no where near as bad as you think it is, and so much worse than you think it is. The caricature of funders telling museums what to do and say, GM using their promotion of a transportation exhibit to promote their products or even their industry for example, almost never happens. Most funders, even corporate ones, don’t care and don’t have the time for such micro-managing. Sure you could probably find an example here and there, especially when the funder is the taxpayer and a politician makes a stink, but for every one of those there are thousands where the funder dumps and wants nothing more than eye candy or outcome statistics for their corporate report.

    The problem lies in all the decisions, major and minor, that museums make to either a) please funders even when not asked, b) do things to make themselves more attractive to potential funders before approaching them. For example, after the latest kerfuffle at the National Portrait Gallery, most of my friends and colleagues at the Smithsonian blamed the NPG because everyone knows you should never put Jesus or religion in an exhibition and by and large museums tend to avoid the whole subject. The major difference here is that this phenomenon appears to sharp rhetoric and push studies into proactive policy suggestions for think tanks but for museums it mostly makes them duck and cover, taking all possible contentious material out of their halls making their programs dull and bland in fear of upsetting some funder real or potential. But no outside funder actually ASKS them to, they do it on their own due in part to the Clever Hans Phenomenon Doug describes here.

  80. 80
    ChrisS says:

    Edited. Fuck it.
    I haven’t seen anything to convince me that libertarians aren’t nuts, ideologically lazy, or bootlickers.

  81. 81
    NonyNony says:

    @ChrisS:

    If a political philosophy doesn’t seek to protect the meek, I want nothing to do with it.

    Ah, but see good Christians know that the meek will inherit the Earth. And so by eliminating the estate tax before that happens the meek will be protected.

  82. 82
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @DougJarvus Green-Ellis:

    Don’t just look at the current mix of think tank ideologies, but also look at how they have evolved over time. Brookings was orginally a liberal think tank and even in the 1970s Nixon still thought it was worth the trouble to want to have them firebombed. They are not liberal any more. Nor are they alone in that evolution.

    In constrast, how many orginally right-wing think tanks have moved to the left over the years?

  83. 83
    fasteddie9318 says:

    I’m confused; are we talking about a libertarian (Libertarian? LIBERTARIAN?) failure to address corporate power or corporatism? I think they address a fair amount of the latter, precisely because it involves government abuses and regulatory capture. They address, as far as I can tell, little or none of the former. I have yet to here the articulation of the libertarian utopia where I’m not tongue-washing Lloyd Blankfein’s car once a day, either because I desperately need the job or because his hired security forces “encourage” me to do so.

    I’ve had self-described libertarians try to explain to me that there is simply no coercive power outside of government, and so if government were shrunk or removed from the equation large corporations would have no power to project onto everyone else. That’s plainly bullshit. What is it about the libertarian mindset that refuses to recognize that a private entity can, on its own and without government collusion, act to restrict liberties?

  84. 84
  85. 85
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    @pragmatism:

    I like MoveOn and was a member until I came to think that they weren’t very effectual. But I wouldn’t expect them to do something that really pissed Soros off.

  86. 86
    ChrisS says:

    @fasteddie9318: “…precisely because it involves government abuses”

    Where was the outrage over the Citizens United case? (here?)

    Or am I mistaken in that letting corporations use their vast capital advantage in the political realm isn’t a good thing for society?

  87. 87
    Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel) says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Yeah, you’re right.

    Coincidently, I just noticed the same thing about a live version of Fairport Convention’s Matty Groves. Just this morning. I wish I could credibly work up a roots reggae version. Alas, cursed with an extreme case of white guy. What can you do?

  88. 88
    Pooh says:

    The fact that DJGE feels that this point is controversial enough to warrant a post is depressing in and of itself.

  89. 89
    Xenos says:

    Were there not a number of purges recently from conservative think-tanks where ‘scholars’ failed to toe the corporate line? Frum got canned from AEI within days of criticizing the Republican campaign against any kind of health care reform. There were other examples, too.

  90. 90
    pragmatism says:

    @DougJarvus Green-Ellis: agreed, that’s your point, innit? i wouldn’t take that as attacking libruls or progressives, though.

  91. 91
    Redshift says:

    @DougJarvus Green-Ellis: I don’t think that’s the whole explanation. Most conservative “think” tanks were created by rich conservatives as a faux-academia that would reliably spout the positions they favored, and find justifications for those positions, rather than following the facts where they led. This happened because actual academia wouldn’t do that. Actual academia more often produces answers to the liking of liberals, because reality has a well-known liberal bias. Academia is by no means perfect; academics can get off track and get caught up in fads and fashions that lead away from the truth, but in the long run it’s an environment that leads to the truth more than one with an ideological basis.

    Liberal counterparts don’t exist largely because liberals want to know the truth, rather than wanting organizations that tell us what we want to hear and twist the facts as necessary to reach that outcome. Liberal think tanks like CAP were created because because liberals realized they were lacking in organizations to advocate for their position (other than narrow issue groups), but not because they were lacking in real research to supports them.

  92. 92
    Alex S. says:

    Eh, E.D. says that he’s a libertarian because he doesn’t want to be on either side. That forces him to defend some questionable positions. I would suggest some rebranding, to independent thinker or something like that. The ‘official’ libertarians are not exactly what E.D. wants them to be. But a single person does not control a word, especially not political words.

  93. 93
    ChrisS says:

    @DougJarvus Green-Ellis:
    Like what exactly. As far as I can tell, as long as he isn’t arrested, Soros isn’t agitating for a litany of selfish causes.

  94. 94
    MikeJ says:

    @DougJarvus Green-Ellis: Then the question becomes, what would piss off Soros? Not repealing the estate tax? Not likely. Higher taxes on the wealthy? Again, not likely. Saving social security?

    The wealthy people who fund right wing think tanks are pretty transparent in what they expect. If you start from a liberal perspective, what can you be in favor of that will piss off George Soros?

  95. 95
    mr. whipple says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    “It’s toasted!”

    9 out of 10 doctors agree!

  96. 96
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    @ChrisS:

    No, he’s not, you’re right.

  97. 97
    Bender says:

    @DougJarvus Green-Ellis:

    Great song, no? The first Elvis song I ever heard.

    Noob! I can’t hear that lyric without thinking “Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang!” right after it.

    I remember overhearing my big sis playing “Aim” over and over, always starting with “Alison” (which I hated as a proper hard 7 or 8-yr-old ). But when she brought home This “Year’s Model” a few months later and I heard the first bars of “No Action,” I was hooked.

  98. 98
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    @MikeJ:

    Something involving currency trading maybe, that’s how he made his money.

    There have been no examples with MoveOn though, so a better example is the time CAP smacked Matt Yglesias, I don’t remember what for.

  99. 99
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    @adolphus:

    Very interesting perspective, thanks for the comment.

  100. 100
    aimai says:

    @Ann B. Nonymous:

    Do you know what cudlip means ? Because I’m dying to know and I can’t think who to ask.

    aimai

  101. 101
    Tony J says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    There is also the question of whether or not the money comes with strings attached. And are the strings a spider filament or an cable that could support a suspension bridge?

    Now that’s just crazy. It’s like saying the journalists over at Fox News might have financial reasons to display pro-GOP bias just because it’s owned by Rupert Murdoch and run by Roger Ailes, when I can just as easily prove that any liberal group you care to name is actually controlled by the rotting corpse of Idi Amin in six simple steps.

    Kevin Bacon taught me how, and it’s foolproof.

  102. 102
    El Cid says:

    @The Moar You Know: Unfortunately, his project of studying the structure and activities of power and the power elites in this country hasn’t been a subject of much interest in academic sociology and political science. He has himself published more frequently recently, and there are more references to his work — and I think it’s because of the truly obvious nature of a rigid power elite under Bush Jr. and their extraordinarily visible influence on government and policy, whereas this wasn’t as much seen under Clinton (though it was just as much there), and if so, was seen as largely benign.

  103. 103
    Redshift says:

    DougJ, I think you’re treating “corporations” a bit too much as a single faceless blob here. Yes, corporations own the media. But corporations also owned the media when the media weren’t nearly as bad as they are now about catering to those in power.

    I think the missing element (which you alluded to in comments) is concentration. In the arena of right-wing “think” tanks, this is easy to see. They are entirely useless as a source of honest policy pronouncements not just because they are heavily funded by right-wing billionaires, but because there are just a handful of those billionaires who largely agree on how to screw the rest of us for their benefit. For media, when there were a lot more owners, there wasn’t such a narrow view of what is good for “corporations” because, first, there was incentive to beat the other guys by going after things they were avoiding, but also because less concentration in the advertisers meant it was harder to tailor anything to cater to them as a whole.

  104. 104
    j low says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    In this case, yes, both sides do it. Everyone has think tanks.

    Wrong. Only rich people have think tanks.

  105. 105
    ChrisS says:

    Through the last few days that I’ve been following, I just haven’t seen anything that makes me think that mainstream, professional libertarians give more than whit about abuse of corporate abuse of power or corporatism … other than if there was less government regulation, the magic hand of the market would keep corporations from being greedy to point of negatively affecting society.

    Granted, the Democrats aren’t especially awesome on this front, but what would healthcare and wall street reform look like without GOP obstruction aided by their “independent” libertarian helpers?

  106. 106
    Corey says:

    @El Cid: Where can I read that?

  107. 107
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @ChrisS:

    Where was the outrage over the Citizens United case?

    Nowhere, at least not in the professional (g)libertarian arena. I didn’t say they did a good job handling corporatism, but they at least make an effort at it (TARP comes to mind), whereas on the subject of naked corporate power, and how a society devoid of government would not wind up looking like Thunderdome with the rest of us killing each other for the entertainment of our bankster overlords, there’s nothing.

    I know, when confronted with that scenario, most libertarians will claim that they never said there shouldn’t be any government at all; it’s just that most of them can’t find a single goddamn thing that government has ever done with which they agree. And, you know what? Even the few libertarians I know who really do come close to being anarchists won’t really talk about how society would look if they had their way beyond some stupid platitudes about market forces.

  108. 108
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    In this case, yes, both sides do it. Everyone has think tanks.

    I can has my think tank nao? “Even the liberal Brookings Foundation” is basically a neocon racket when push comes to shove.

    By the way, ED, good on you for admitting your turnaround on the foreclosure discussion. I’m sure that wasn’t easy to write.

  109. 109
    Ann B. Nonymous says:

    @aimai:

    Do you know what cudlip means ? Because I’m dying to know and I can’t think who to ask.

    It’s a silly bit of future slang from a Richard Morgan science fiction thriller, Thirteen (the one called Black Man in the UK, after the main character, who is a black man. Britain, don’t ever change). It means, basically, “people who act like cattle,” compared to the completely sane, thoughtful, and well-motivated ubermensch characters who populate Morgan’s books.

  110. 110
    cleek says:

    But, on further reflection libertarianism does in fact rely more on think tanks and vanity project media, because it doesn’t have much in the way of party infrastructure.

    yeah, an entrenched 2 party system will do that.

  111. 111
    Stillwater says:

    @Ann B. Nonymous: I’m beginning to see that strange little matoko_chan person’s point.

    Her view is that Kain is irredeemable (and she’s been reading the guy long before he showed up here, so there’s that). My view is that hope remains for light to slowly creep into his obstinate brain (even tho this goes against my belief that facts and reason are useless tools against true believers). At this point the evidence is on her side.

  112. 112
    Chris says:

    I’m only halfway through this thread, but just wanted to throw this quote out there;

    The nature of the hold movement conservativism has on the Republican Party may be summed up very simply: Yes, Virginia, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy. That is, there is an interlocking set of institutions ultimately answering to a small group of people that collectively reward loyalists and punish dissenters.

    Paul Krugman, “The Conscience of a Liberal.”

  113. 113
    Barb (formerly Gex) says:

    @Redshift: I would change the emphasis, myself. It’s not that universities produce outputs that liberals like, it’s that liberals will listen to what comes out of universities and reevaluate issues based on that. Flip-flopping is the derogatory term for it.

  114. 114
    Barb (formerly Gex) says:

    @Barb (formerly Gex): I mean, it’s not like liberals are *happy* about climate change.

  115. 115
    El Cid says:

    @Corey: Crud. I thought I’d put that in.

    This is G. William Domhoff’s website on the US’ class-dominated power structure, which gives both a very accessible (though no less intellectually rigorous) look at his incredibly strong academic research and also advice on how to do similar work in your own community.

    Specifically it’s the page from which my quotes were taken, “The Class-Domination Theory of Power,” April 2005. (He has his own specific use of those terms, which he distinguishes from other common approaches, including from Marxist analyses, though never disregarding insights from any.)

  116. 116
    Chris says:

    @Redshift:

    I think the missing element (which you alluded to in comments) is concentration. In the arena of right-wing “think” tanks, this is easy to see. They are entirely useless as a source of honest policy pronouncements not just because they are heavily funded by right-wing billionaires, but because there are just a handful of those billionaires who largely agree on how to screw the rest of us for their benefit.

    This.

    There’s “Wall Street,” “the rich” or “the corporations,” as in the elite of this country as a whole, that’s one thing. But there’s also a fairly small group of ultra-rich people (the Koch brothers, Rupert Murdoch, Richard Scaife and a few others like them) that donate to enough of the same institutions and foundations that there’s a recognizable monolith among think tanks, advocating a specific ideological agenda.

  117. 117
    nate says:

    Jesus, has no one read Manufacturing Consent? There’s even a movie version.

  118. 118
    Chris says:

    @Barb (formerly Gex):

    It’s not that universities produce outputs that liberals like, it’s that liberals will listen to what comes out of universities and reevaluate issues based on that. Flip-flopping is the derogatory term for it.

    This, too. I’m a liberal, and I try to listen to the professionals in most areas of life, and not just universities studying science. If I want to know how to win a war, I’ll listen to the military on the ground. If I want to know something about a certain country, I’ll ask a diplomat or somebody who’s lived there (best of all somebody who’s from there). And to get more mundane, if I want to get my car or my computer fixed, I’ll go to someone who knows more about that than I do and listen to them.

    Movement conservatives have spent the last thirty years creating ideological shadow institutions alongside all of the professionals – think tanks being a big part of it, political appointees another, and there are more. And it concerns me, because as the Soviet Union demonstrated, it’s not possible in the long run to create your own alternate reality like this without eventually having reality bite you hard enough to draw blood.

  119. 119
    Tom M says:

    because it doesn’t have much in the way of party infrastructure. ideas.

    Fx’d

  120. 120
    Cermet says:

    @Xenos: Yes, he is and this is what makes ED the talking horse, rear half. He believes this shit.

  121. 121
    Cermet says:

    @Chris: Case in point: peak oil doesn’t give a shit if you are spending more money on your military than all other countries combined nor that you have a whole group of asswipes claiming that market forces will deliver the oil if you stick your head up your ass and pretend that all is well – baby, it is going to suck big time for amerika and in ten years at best and maybe (I hope not) far less. Let ED the rear end of the talking horse babble on about free market theory but only a major government program geared to address this problem ahead of time will help us.

  122. 122
    maus says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    But this applies to every political group! You can’t attack libertarianism as an idea by going after the funders of a think tank any more than you can attack liberalism by going after the funders of liberal think tanks.

    Conservative “Libertarianism” is centralized. “Liberalism” is not, unless you actually believe George Soros/MoveOn run modern Democrats, which I’d love to hear.

  123. 123
    PIGL says:

    @E.D. Kain: name me three “liberal” think tanks that have any influence on bobble-head chatter or policy direction.

    Almost all the major think tanks are libertarian or neo-conservative, and they push agendas that have distinctions without differences. And guess what: there is a reason for this. They are all funded by the same interests.

  124. 124
    maus says:

    @PIGL:

    name me three “liberal” think tanks that have any influence on bobble-head chatter

    You should specify “positive” influence, because MoveOn talking points advise the bobbleheads on what they should be demonizing in the weeks to come.

  125. 125
    PIGL says:

    @El Cid: we can of course completely ignore these findings, because somewhere precariously below the line, there exist impoverished “think tanks” doing intellectual work for the left, whose findings are ignored and whose staff and associates are unemployable in any position of influence anywhere ever.

    See, it’s all equal. The left does it to.

    I wish a certain person would go soak his head in a bucket of gin until he was able to tell penniless from billionaire, Jove from Pan, tiny tiny tiny from Gargantuan, and a supernova powered searchlight of obfuscation and lies from the dark side of the moon where the truth is written.

  126. 126
    PIGL says:

    @Xenos: oh, he’s serious, all right. He’s a Libertarian ™.

  127. 127
    sneezy says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    “In this case, yes, both sides do it. Everyone has think tanks.”

    But unlike mainstream political groups, libertarianism often seems to consist of little but well-funded think tanks, and yes, it is worth noting the irony of organizations that advocate strenuously for “free markets” but that could not survive without heavy subsidies.

  128. 128
    E.D. Kain says:

    @J. Michael Neal: No. Every single side in mainstream political discourse including liberals and conservatives and libertarians have well-funded think tanks. Are you all seriously arguing that liberals don’t have think tanks? Or other similar well-funded organizations? Does the Center for American Progress not count? Brookings is pretty damn liberal too. I’m getting lots of “Are you serious?” bullshit comments – but are you serious? Do you really mean to pretend that liberals are sans think tanks?

  129. 129
    E.D. Kain says:

    So there’s two Center for American Progress, Brookings. You also have academic institutions which are slanted heavily toward liberals and a liberal outlook. Also:

    Economic Policy Institute
    Center for Public Integrity
    Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
    Justice PPolicy Institute
    Citizens for Tax Justice
    Center for Defense Information

    And a number of others.

  130. 130
    Bill Murray says:

    @E.D. Kain: but since mainstream political discourse pretty much excludes anything to the left of what is center in the rest of the world, your word choice seems to make the claim for Mr. Neal.

  131. 131
    IM says:

    There are no liberal in the american sense that is left wing think tanks. For obvious reasons. Kain is desperate enough to count the ultra-centrist Brookings as liberal. What is is his next move? Even-the-liberal New Republic?

    There are of course a lot of democratic think tanks, but all of them are institutions of moderate democrats or liberal hawks.

    CAP e. g. is headed by a Clintonist and features the raving neolib Yglesias. And Yglesias is probably their left wing.

    We have a few left-wing think tanks here in Germany, but all are either state or union funded. But Kain would probably count the Bertelsmann Foundation as evil left-wingers.

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