I thought that ED’s post about how everyone has think tanks was a bit of a mess. I have too many problems with it to list them all, but I’ll start with one: on what planet can ActBlue be compared with a Koch-brother funded think tank? ActBlue is simply an aggregator for small donors and it’s a PAC, not a think tank. PACs aren’t much like think tanks because PACs fund elections, whereas think tanks fund propaganda. I realize that winning elections is related to producing propaganda, broadly speaking, but I don’t see candidates using Cato studies in their ads much.
I have friends who work in politics and I’ll tell you how it goes: if you win an election, you have a job, if you lose it, you may not. That goes for both candidates and their campaign workers. Brink Lindsey, Will Wilkinson, and David Frum can tell you how it goes at think tanks: you toe the line, you keep your job, you don’t, and you lose it. In light of the fact that Lindsey and Wilkinson were recently purged at Cato, it’s remarkably disingenuous for Jason Kuznicki to say “Look, in the years I’ve been at Cato, I’ve never once been told `You need to change your views because the Kochs don’t approve’.” It’s a lot like a potential witness saying “no, the mafia never told me not to testify” in an area where a bunch of witnesses had just been killed.
If you look at Cato and Reason, most of what they write is what Republicans preach minus the Jeebus and race-baiting, plus drug legalization and criticism of the law enforcement (I don’t dispute that these are major additions/subtractions). That’s to be expected: the Jeebus, the race-baiting, the War on Drugs, and “getting tough on crime” are to win elections and think tankers/vanity publication employees don’t have to worry about that. They serve a different master than politicos do.
But this is not another post about libertarianism. My gripe with with what I’ll call establishment libertarnianism (Cato, Reason, Megan McArdle, etc.) is that it is too corporatist. Want to guess what my gripe with establishment liberalism is? It’s that it’s too corporatist too. Freddie deBoer:
I genuinely have a great deal of sympathy for those young rising politicos and bloggers who are constitutionally disposed to be left-wing. What they find, as they rise, is a blogging establishment that delivers the message again and again that to be professionally successful, they must march ever-rightward. That’s where the money is, after all. For every Nation or FireDogLake, there is an Atlantic or Slate, buttressed by money from the ruling class whose interests are defended with gusto by the neoliberal order. I have followed more than a few eager young bloggers as they have been steadily pushed to the right by the institutional culture of Washington DC, where professional entitlement and social success come part and parcel with an acceptance that “this is a center-right nation” is God’s will.
Can anyone deny that Glenn Greenwald will never get a gig at Cato or Reason, that Digby and Matt Taibbi will never get gigs at the Atlantic (I consider GG a libertarian)? Can anyone deny that Glenn Greenwald would generate more pageviews than anyone who is at Reason or Cato, that Digby or Matt Taibbi would get more pageviews than anyone but Sully at the Atlantic?
Of course, the first rule of establishment corporate journalism is that you do not call it establishment corporate journalism. ED (for example) would like to earn living as a journalist, so it’s natural that he pooh-poohs Freddie’s point. I don’t mean to single ED out; to the contrary, the fact that he takes deBoer’s point seriously at all puts him miles above Joe Klein and James Fallows and the rest, who will always simply ignore these sorts of arguments.
They may not even know that these arguments are valid. After all, it’s hard to make a man understand something when his livelihood depends on him not understanding it.