Friday, August 27, 2010

The New Yorker and Vast Right Wing Conspriracies

The New Yorker has a curious article about the Koch brothers.  It starts out describing the hundreds of millions of dollars that this wealthy family has contributed to charitable and philanthropic causes.  But the author has another intent, she wants to tie the Koch brothers to a plot not to give money to restore New York's cultural institutions (which they have certainly done) but to be engaged in a clandestine plot to destroy Barrack Obama.

The Koch brothers are supporters of libertarian causes. According to the article they have helped to fund the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.  Mercatus does some first rate policy research. The Center grew out of a first rate economics department - led by Nobel prize winner James Buchanan (I guess his Nobel in 1986 was a conspiracy) and a host of committed free market economists.   The plot to undermine the president includes such activities as maintaining a first rate resource of key economic documents and podcasts on all sorts of topics from all points of view at The Library of Economics and Liberty.

Since a lot of what the New Yorker has is humor one could conclude that Mayer was writing this tongue in cheek.  She frets that among the economists that the Koch brothers like is Frederick Hayek.  Evidently she either does not know or does not care that Hayek was the first winner of the Nobel in Economics.  She presents as evidence that Hayek's 1940s book against socialism  (The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents--The Definitive Edition (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, Volume 2) moved up to number one on the Amazon lists after it was touted by conservative commentators.  She might have checked, Hayek's  books have moved in and out of popularity a number of times.

She seems to think that because Koch Industries is in the energy business that the Koch support of all sorts of libertarian causes is tied completely to self interest.  It is hard to make that connection except in paranoid fantasies.  I suspect that the Koch brothers genuinely believe that the recent expansions of government have been bad for the country.  Amazingly, if you look at the immediate evidence (sustained unemployment, pathetic economic activity, foreclosures at the highest levels since the great depression, a crappy capital goods market, out of control deficits that are four times the highest under Obama's predecessor, etc.) you can make a pretty good case that view of the world is correct.

By the way, in the spirit of disclosure, my own libertarian leanings (I do believe, as you might have guessed that less government is better) have not been funded in any way by the Koch brothers although I will admit that I find the Library of Economics and Liberty to be a wonderful resource.  Perhaps I value it even more than the restoration of Lincoln Center.

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