Shortly before 3 p.m. [Monday], the men and women of the Cato Institute strolled into the renovated Friedrich von Hayek Auditorium to confirm their good news. Five days earlier, the Washington Post broke news of a settlement between David Koch, Charles Koch, and America’s largest, longest-lived libertarian think tank. Ed Crane, 68, Cato’s president since its 1977 genesis in San Francisco, would step down. His replacement would be John Allison, 64, a banker who’d endowed college courses on the work of Ayn Rand.
“I didn’t see today as Ed’s swan song,” says Levy. “He’s going to stay on for a while as CEO, and after that, he’s going to remain a very important consultant on fundraising and other issues.” What about all of that public Jell-O wrestling with two of the planet’s richest men? “We’ve gotten past that.” David Koch had stopped donating to Cato, but “if everybody behaves in a way that was contemplated, he’ll be a supporter in the future as he was in the past.”
I am a bad, bad man. Last week I started a mini-firestorm of controversy about fusionism, then ran away into the woods of upstate New York for a two week vacation where the Internet is an endangered species. And now that the firestorm has since—partially, at least—died down, I’m here to stir it back up again. Because I totally captured an Internet in a Have-A-Heart trap and can actually use it for my nefarious blogging.
Jason Pye made some very thoughtful points in his rebuttal, which could be summed up by his last paragraph, that we shouldn’t “cut off our nose to spite our face.” Fair enough. I myself am a “gradualist,” and don’t see radical libertarianism as the way forward. Jason and I agree on that. But there are a few things I take issue with.
For starters, I never ruled out working with conservatives on issues. In fact, I explicitly endorsed ad hoc alliances with both the right and the left in order to advance individual liberty. This was the view put forward by our colleague Tom Knighton, and I think its a reasonable and sensible one to use.
The problem I have with fusionism is not that we’re working with people we disagree with on issues. That’s not just politics, that’s just life, and we’re going to have to deal with it. The problem with fusionism is that it seeks to subsume libertarianism as a wing of the conservative jumbo jet that’s flying off into some distant horizon. That libertarianism is really just a bunch of conservatives who like drugs, are okay with gay people, and not as much with war. But, as it goes, libertarians are fundamentally conservative at their core.
Over the last couple of days we’ve been discussing conservative/libertarian fusionism. Jeremy Kolassa got us started on Tuesday with an excellent post explaining that libertarians need to contrast themselves from conservatives, and not simply “go along to get along.”
While I largely agree with the substance of the post, I later posted somewhat of a rebuttal, in which I explained that we need not cut off our nose to spite our face when dealing with conservative groups that concentrate on issues with which we can agree; such as spending and taxes.
In my post, I pointed to comments made earlier this by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who, during an interview with Reason, said that the Republican Party should listen to libertarians. This caught the eye of my good friend, Chris Barron.
Yesterday, Chris pointed out that Sen. DeMint has been openly hostile to GOProud, a group of gay Republicans that promotes free markets and limited government, by opposing its inclusion in the most recent CPAC. Chris also pointed to a post that I wrote back in November 2010, in which I criticized Sen. DeMint for saying that one “can’t be a fiscal conservative without being a social conservative.”
After some speculation, we now have an idea of some of the changes that will be made at the Cato Institute as a result of the lawsuit filed by Charles and David Koch. We had heard rumors in recent days, much of which was true.
Dave Weigel offered up some details on the campfire that was held yesterday at Cato to explain to employees what had transpired and how they would move forward under the terms of the agreement:
We should know the firm details of the future of the Cato Institute by the end of the day, but the Washington Times reports that Ed Crane, who founded Cato in 1974 and has served as the influential think tanks president since that time, will be forced into retirement as part of the settlement with Charles and David Koch:
The Cato Institute’s co-founder and president, Edward Crane, has been forced out by the libertarian organization’s board of directors, according to inside sources. John A. Allison, former chairman and CEO of BB&T Corporation, will take over as interim president.
Mr. Allison is believed to be planning to arrive at the Washington-D.C. think tank on Monday for the transition news to be announced. Asked about the leadership changes, Cato spokesman Khristine Brooks said a statement would be issued on Monday.
By one account, Mr. Crane is “leaving kicking and screaming,” but he will do so “under the guise that he is retiring earlier than he had planned.” He will continue to have a role at the organization as a fundraiser and liaison with big donors. Ms. Brooks denied Mr. Crane was being forced out, adding, “Ed Crane will stay at Cato Institute for a period of time.”
Based on the rumors I’ve heard, the Kochs will have control of the board of directors as the recent additions to the board will supposedly be removed. That doesn’t strike me as a good thing for the future of the Cato Institute, but no one seems overly concerned, which I find to be odd if the Kochs truly have control.
Again, we should know more later today.
Brian Doherty, a writer at Reason and author of Ron Paul’s rEVOLution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired, recently spoke to Libertarianism.org about the impact of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign on the Republican Party and American politics and what it means now that he is retiring:
Lately I’ve been wrestling over the intersection of two groups of people to which I belong: Christians and libertarians. On fiscal policy, there’s a lot of agreement between the two groups (on the surface, at least), but the great divide usually comes on the social issues.
On the social issues, Christians typically want government to enforce what is right (i.e. legislate morality), while the libertarians don’t want to be the coerced recipient of anyone’s morality, whether it’s good for them or not. As a member of both of these groups, I understand each viewpoint.
If the Christians’ goal were just to worship God freely, to share Him with those who will listen, and to set an example for others in the life they live, they could easily get along with libertarians. And if they really just want to be free to worship how they choose, they could even be libertarians.
The problem comes when the scope of Christians’ efforts expands to impede the freedom of others. I think everyone should be in church on Sunday, but it would be wrong for me to force people to spend their Sundays as I choose to spend mine. The same logic applies to every socially conservative issue Christians champion.
There are Christians – good, well-intentioned people, I might add – who support political issues that they agree with personally. For example, they’d never vote for a tax increase unless it was a “sin tax” issue. They’d support bans on things ranging from foul language to homosexuality because it’s part of their personal moral code.
I’m reminded of the people I’ve seen on street corners screaming at people telling them they should give their lives to God. While it would be great to see those people turn to God, I’ve never found screaming at people to be a very effective means of communication.
Over the last few years, I’ve been explaining to friends, particularly Republicans, that young Americans are increasinly libertarian in their viewpoints. Some of them dismiss it, refusing to acknowledge the rising popularity of libertarianism. However, Jack Hunter notes that, thanks to some recent polling by Zogby, the conservative movement is being somewhat saved by libertarians:
Recently, Jason posted about Paul Ryan and Objectivism. It’s a good post, and you should go read it. I wanted to take a moment and comment myself.
First, understand that I have read Atlas Shrugged four times so far and understand Objectivism in a lot of ways. I am also a libertarian, something that Rand was not particularly fond of. Libertarians look at Rand as an intellectual parent of our movement, though Objectivists will not be thrilled with this description one bit.
Jason points out how many people who agree with much of what Rand wrote reject Objectivism for one reason above many others. Atheism.
I am, unlike many libertarians, a man of faith. I wasn’t always a Christian, though I always believed that there was some kind of higher power. Objectivism, a philosophy I agree with in many ways, would never fully be my own because of that one point. From my time with Objectivists, there was no room for the idea of faith, even if you understood that it wasn’t a rational decision based on empirical data.
So what does this have to do with Jason’s post about Paul Ryan? Simple. I have been heavily influenced by Rand. Atlas Shrugged changed my life in ways that I never thought it would. While I leaned libertarian beforehand, it pushed me over the edge and made me more of an activist for libertarian values.
Just as easily, it can push someone to embrace free markets and similar ideas while that person also clings to their faith like Paul Ryan. It’s not a “gotcha” moment as Jason believes the press sees it. Instead, it’s a lack of understanding that many people take parts of Atlas Shrugged and throw out other parts of John Galt’s famous speech.
After all, I did. So why couldn’t Paul Ryan?
This isn’t new ground for libertarian blogs, but apparently there is still a large disconnect between reality and perception. I don’t happen to have any illusions about this post actually changing that either, but I figured I needed to do something that didn’t involve a bell tower in an effort to curb the insanity.
Ron Paul, and most who describe themselves as libertarian, are non-interventionist. The perception by many is that we are isolationist. We are not, and there are very key differences.
First, isolationists are also the kind of people who want to block importation of goods. Most libertarians oppose efforts to limit imports. We believe in a free market, and part of that means we must compete with goods from outside of our shores. The truth is, Japanese cars made American cars better. Ford, GM, and Chrysler had to compete with the high quality and low cost, and American manufacturers produced better cars than they had in years. This is a good thing, and an example of why libertarians want goods imported.
Next, let’s look at the dreaded “outsourcing” of American jobs. Now, I hate calling up a tech support line and hearing a thick foreign accent saying, “Thank you for calling technical support. My name is ‘Bob’. How may I help you?” We all know his name probably isn’t Bob, but they somehow think they’re fooling us or something. So be it. However, American companies get better rates from call centers located outside of the United States, which lets them grow in other areas. That growth can lead to new jobs that pay better than the outsourced jobs that are now gone.
Over the last several months, libertarians have taken shots from all sides. During the Republican primary, Rick Santorum made it clear that he wasn’t fond of the libertarian viewpoint on nearly any matter in public policy and expressed concern about the philosophical influence in the Tea Party movement. Santorum even as far as knocking the Goldwater view of limited government.
More recently, libertarians have been wrongly attacked by Van Jones, a self-described communist and former Obama Administration appointee. During an Occupy Wall Street event, Jones called libertarians “bigots” and claimed that we are anti-gay rights; accusations that are completely false.
Now Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is getting in his shots.
Facing a fate similar to that of his former colleague, Bob Bennett, Hatch recently told NPR that he is “doggone offended” by “radical libertarians” that have gotten involved in the Senate primary in Utah:
This year, major conservative groups announced their intention of defeating Hatch — who they deemed too moderate. FreedomWorks has reportedly spent at least $670,000 attacking Hatch this cycle.
But the long-time senator isn’t sitting on his hands. Hatch told NPR’s Howard Berkes, “These people are not conservatives. They’re not Republicans.”