If Cato Is “Neoconservative,” I’m a Jelly Donut

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Naomi Klein, giant ignoramus, or the giantest ignoramus?

I’m curious, has anyone seen a forum where someone has confronted Klein with actual facts about Milton Friedman?

I wonder how she’d spin into her narrative inconvenient facts like his long and vocal opposition to the drug war, his role in ending conscription, his opposition to the war in Iraq, and his opposition to the general post-9/11 security state.

As I’ve mentioned before, Klein at times comes dangerously close to making a Higgs-ian point about the growth of government at the expense of civil liberties in times of crisis. But she’s embarrassingly ignorant about free market history and ideology.

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28 Responses to “If Cato Is “Neoconservative,” I’m a Jelly Donut”

  1. #1 |  Nun Ya | 

    Strawberry or Raspberry?

  2. #2 |  Episiarch | 

    Maybe she’s a mongoloid. Does she wear a hat, have a job, and bring home the bacon, but no one knew?

  3. #3 |  Jeremy | 

    I can see where she’s coming from. The logic only seems tortured because we’re used to intellectualizing these things with good ol’ libertarian analysis that sprung fully formed from each of our minds, right? For somebody who doesn’t have that, I can see how they’d come to see the corporate-friendly “free market” Cato works towards as in the interests of global empire.

    This just means libertarians need to make more consistent, less confusing policy arguments. Klein is intelligent, she’s just not libertarian. YOU have to convince her, instead of browbeating her with your condemnation like a Randroid. This lady is on our side; we just frame our sides differently because we have different priorities. And if I’m going to make libertarian points to people, especially on economic matters, the last authority I’m going to cite is a Cato report. The priorities are all in the wrong place, that is to say, in favor of corporations.

  4. #4 |  Sam | 

    Well said Jeremy, very well said.

  5. #5 |  Radley Balko | 

    Klein is neither intelligent, nor is she on my “side.” She’s a Marxist who happens to be very confused on the facts. And she lost all privilege of being taken seriously when she thrashed Milton Friedman in a book that manages to get just about everything about the man flat-out wrong (she of course waited until he was dead to publish it).

    I don’t particularly feel the need to convince her of anything.

    I worked at Cato for five years. I edited the Cato website for two. I know what Cato publishes, and your blather about them being pro-corporation at the expense of the free market couldn’t be more wrong. They regularly advocate against corporate welfare, rent seeking, and regulatory capture. Not once did I ever hear of someone suggesting a Cato scholar change a position or tone something down for fear of offending a corporate donor. In fact, corporations make up a very small percentage of Cato’s budget.

    There are legitimate reasons to criticize Cato. But they aren’t corporate whores. And they aren’t remotely neoconservative. Neither was Milton Friedman. He was in fact damn-near the opposite of a neocon. That Klein can’t tell the difference speaks volumes.

  6. #6 |  crack | 

    As long as Roger Pilon is allowed to use the imprimatur of Cato to defend the “Protect America Act” in The Wall Street Journal people should not be considered ignoramuses if they call Cato neocon. Cato can rant and rave about how they’re great and love freedom, but if its “B. Kenneth Simon Chair in Constitutional Studies” writes something like this they really should look at themselves rather than get mad at people who judge them by their actions. The derision in your post is uncalled for when there is such a public example of a high level Cato member carrying water for extreme executive privilege.

  7. #7 |  David McElroy | 

    No, Jeremy. Her logic seems tortured because it’s non-existent. It’s not just her reasoning that’s wrong. It’s her FACTS. She is speaking from a position of gross ignorance. If she were to express confusion about where Cato stood, that MIGHT be understandable. But to state something as fact which is completely wrong is inexcusable ignorance. And she’s not on MY side on most issues. She shares my disdain for certain things about the current administration, but that doesn’t mean we share anything other than a common enemy. We certainly share nothing when it comes to root philosophy.

  8. #8 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Jeremy are you an idiot? Sorry, after that post I have to ask, do you frequently find yourself gazing out the window at nothing in particular with your mouth open and a thin string of drool hanging off your bottom lip?

    The idea that crises are exploited by polticians, corporations and their pet academics to further free markets where people can freely engage in transactions…or not is simply laughable. Corporations dislike competition. Every firm wants more market power not less, and as such are not proponents of a free–read competitive–market place. Politicians dislike the idea of people doing what they like (provided nobody else is being harmed). Hence the War on Drugs, prohibition for online gambling, bans on transfats, foie gras, and cigarettes. Every time you read about a ban, regulation, restriction, or some such you see a politician talking about how things have reached a crisis level, epidemic, plague, scourge, etc. That isn’t free market capitalism, it is rent seeking–i.e. control.

    Lets consider a well known time of crisis in the United States: the Great Depression. In this case, it allowed the government to institute one of the largest Ponzi schemes to come along (Social Security) a re-interpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court (the switch in time to save nine–reinterpreting the commerce clause) that allowed for many of the laws, regulations and restrictions that we see today. This change in philosophy eventually lead to way towards Medicare which is serious danger of ruining the U.S. economy.

    Next we have WWII (note the same guy who brought the U.S. into that war was the same guy that implemented the changes noted above during WWII). During this time we had wage and price freezes. What is significant about that? This is where we got our employer provided health care. This change in policy, at the behest of corporations not academic economists from Chicago, created a rather nasty incentive problem. By putting more and more desirable health care benefits into “employer provided health care” (benefits I might add that shouldn’t be part of any health care insurance plan) employers can enjoy higher levels of consumption without paying the taxes on the income used to purchase that consumption. Fast forward 60+ years and health care costs are spiralling out of control.

    Our next huge economic crisis might very well be health care related and the reason for this will be boneheaded health care policies advocated by Leftists like Klein, not “Chicago Boys”. I’m sure that with deft lies, misrepresentations, and outright distortions of the historical record the sleazy bitch Klein will put forward a well written screed that it is all Milton Friedman’s fault. As the saying goes, a lie gets half way around the world before the truth even gets its boots on. Fools like you are the reason for that, Jeremy. Good job.

  9. #9 |  nicole | 

    So then no one has seen Klein ever confronted with these uncomfortable facts? I’d be interested in this myself. The serious distortion of Friedman’s position on Iraq alone…and I know far too many people who have read this book and not questioned these things at all. They have no idea the man was instrumental in ending the draft and instead think he engineered this deadly boondoggle out of greed—for shame.

  10. #10 |  Greg N. | 

    How many times does Cato have to go through this before it’s finally found “not guilty” of these ridiculous “corporate whore” charges? And now we’re hearing similar stuff from “our side”? Come on. Cato folks are ideologues, not corporate shills. And why is it usually just Cato and friends that gets charged with this stuff? The leftist think tanks are swimming in corporate money (I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I’d bet most match or beat Cato in that regard), but for some reason they’re never accused of shilling.

    Anyway, I’d love to see Klein confronted with the facts. But I’d REALLY love to see John Cusack confronted with them. Imagine a Boaz vs. Cusack debate on libertarianism, neoconservatism and the legacy of Milton Friedman. THAT would be fun to watch.

  11. #11 |  Jonathan Hohensee | 

    Although I would like to see Noami get the trouncing she’s been asking for since No Logo, in my experience 99% of the time some one tries to confront a public figure with the facts, it’s always an awkward experience to watch.

    It’s usually some young over-eager kid who stutters out a “gotcha” question that sounded a lot better when they practiced it in the bathroom. Telling people off/asking goading questions publicly is one of those things that always look cooler in the movies.

  12. #12 |  Phelps | 

    Silly libertarian, don’t you know that “neocon” is just a more polite way of saying “filthy jew?”

  13. #13 |  Jonathan Hohensee | 

    If I was Balko, every time I critiqued Noami Klein, I’d begin all of my paragraphs with “Just like how my corporate overlords have told me….”
    Just as an experiment to see if she takes him seriously.

  14. #14 |  Matt Moore | 

    The leftist think tanks are swimming in corporate money (I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I’d bet most match or beat Cato in that regard), but for some reason they’re never accused of shilling.

    Klein is at least consistent and probably considers all think tanks that take corporate money to be conservative by definition, just like how leftists thinks the mainstream media is inherently conservative because it’s controlled by for-profit corporations.

  15. #15 |  freedomfan | 

    Klein is taken in by a common fallacy: She thinks that all of her ideological enemies must somehow be cut from the same cloth. She is against corporatism, military interventionism, and free markets. To her, they must all be part of the same thing. She doesn’t like Bush, who is following neocon foreign policy and he’s a Republican who talks (but doesn’t walk) a free market game. Since all Republicans (in her view) are corporatists, she files away all those things under the same category, sweeping any free market person (like Friedman) in with people like Kristol, Pinochet, and whoever else she doesn’t like.

    This is common on the left and the right as well. I have to imagine that an experience many libertarians share is one where people assume ideology from the first political conversation we have and then have a tough time getting past it. Most of the people I first meet talking about free markets assume I am a pro-war corporatist conservative and most I first meet talking about police power assume I must be a dope-smoking hippie liberal. It’s easily as amusing as it is annoying.

    The difference is that Klein isn’t someone at a cocktail party. She is supposed to research the people she’s writing about instead of assuming her subjects are two-dimensional cartoon cut-outs from her enemies list.

  16. #16 |  Radley Balko | 

    Cato can rant and rave about how they’re great and love freedom, but if its “B. Kenneth Simon Chair in Constitutional Studies” writes something like this they really should look at themselves rather than get mad at people who judge them by their actions. The derision in your post is uncalled for when there is such a public example of a high level Cato member carrying water for extreme executive privilege.

    That’s a fair point. And I’ll be the first to say that Cato will be a better place when Pilon retires.

    Still, Pilon may be a bed-wetter on national security, but he’s no neocon. He’s opposed to the drug war, sodomy laws, and all consensual crimes. He’s also adamantly opposed to Weekly Standard-esque “national greatness” conservatism, and favors a robust interpretation of the Ninth and 14th amendments.

    I’m hardly a fan of Pilon, but to call him a neocon just isn’t factually correct.

  17. #17 |  Les | 

    A noted leftist demolishes Klein here:

    http://tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=69067f1c-d089-474b-a8a0-945d1deb420b

  18. #18 |  Bot | 

    Ich bin ein Berliner?

  19. #19 |  Greg N. | 

    Radley,

    Jeremy’s point really isn’t fair. We may disagree with Pilon on the scope of executive authority, but Cato is a think tank where people are encouraged to honestly follow their reasoning where it leads. It’s not some hack joint pushing whatever conforms to their preconceived ideology. Pilon holds his views sincerely, and presumably he came to them through honest research and thinking through the complex issues involved. He’s not “carrying water” for the White House, or shilling for the administration. Frankly, I’m not sure how one “carries water” for a concept.

    I think it’s a testament to Cato’s intellectual honesty that someone in Pilon’s position can hold the views he does and still find a public forum for them under Cato’s roof. Further, Jeremy forgets that while Pilon holds his views, Cato’s other legal scholars – most notably Bob Levy – (and Ed Crane, for what it’s worth) hold views completely at odds with Pilon’s, and their (often public) disagreement makes Cato a better place.

    Cato may or may not be a better outift when Pilon retires (and if it is, it might be for reasons other than his politics), but people shouldn’t knock Cato for holding onto scholars who may have views outside libertarian dogma.

  20. #20 |  Greg N. | 

    I meant Crack, not Jeremy. Apologies, Jeremy.

  21. #21 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    As a recently retired democratic socialist, I admit that I used to have a more favorable view towards Klein’s arguements. But, like most of her fans, I was not well versed in economics. I’m still no expert, but I now view Leftists like Naomi Klein as almost cartoonish (has she been portrayed on South Park yet?). They are broken records and they try to sound like libertarians (as long as a statist Republican hostile to civil liberties is in office) while promoting the same state socialist economic policies and sucking up to the same old socialist strongmen (Chavez, Morales, etc.). Meet the new lefty, same as the old lefty.

    At the ripe old age of 30, I’m already too old for the platitudes of Klein & co… I now view their efforts to conflate two clearly distinct lines of political thought–Right-wing statism and libertarianism (left or right)–as obnoxious and slanderous, especially in the case of Friedman. Friedman’s work to end the draft and his strong criticism of drug prohibition opened my eyes. I’m still a bit skeptical on the economic side, but maybe I’m still learning. The principled libertarian is no friend to big government or big corporations, contrary to the protests of Klein and her minions. I should add that Cato published a criticism of Klein by the young writer Johan Nordberg (I think Radley posted a link to it) that savaged her book and her ideology. It is a great read.

  22. #22 |  André Kenji | 

    The beginning of No Logo is not so bad. But I´ve never finished it. ;-)

  23. #23 |  Les | 

    I just noticed that the article Radley linked to links to the article I linked to. Sorry. I am a fool. Ignore my link!

  24. #24 |  Lloyd | 

    Klein’s confusion is easy to understand: Republicans who vote for big government also give lip service to free markets. Klein’s attack vs. “Disaster Capitalism” misses the obvious fact that there is nothing ‘capitalist’ about a company like Halliburton benefiting from cronyism. Klein’s solution — giving gov’t even more power — only ensures more such corruption.

  25. #25 |  crack | 

    Greg:

    I don’t doubt that Cato has lots of people who disagree with Pilon, but he is none the less a public face of the organization. If Cato did great work behind the scenes and had Che Guevara writing op eds would it be the fault of the observers when they assume that the organization is full of communist revolutionaries?

    As for whether Pilon is a neocon I don’t know. I consider neocons imperialists first and everything else second. Outside of the unitary executive everything else is details. I could be wrong.

  26. #26 |  Christopher Monnier | 

    Klein’s libel of Milton Friedman and the Cato Institute, while revealing of her ignorance, is probably representative of many on “the left” who conflate Republicans and their lip service to “the free market” (as if they even know what they’re referring to) with truly libertarian (as an adjective), free-market concepts. The informal association between libertarians and Republicans is toxic to libertarians, and Klein’s libel demonstrates this.

  27. #27 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Chait is an idiot too.

    From his TNR article,

    The last two decades certainly have seen the global spread of absolutist free-market ideology. Many of the newest adherents of this creed are dictators who have learned that they can harness the riches of capitalism without permitting the freedoms once thought to flow automatically from it.

    Oh really, like who? Myanmar? Zimbabwe? Venezuala? Oh I know…North Korea…no wait that wont work either. Let me think….hmmm…uhhh…Cuba…no….aahhhh…hrrrmmm. Dang, I know there must be one. Somebody help me out here.

    Chait’s next sentence,

    In the United States, the power of labor unions has withered, and prosperity has increasingly come to be defined as gross domestic product or the rise of the stock market, with the actual living standards of the great mass of the population an afterthought.

    Oh yeah! I forgot about that great dictatorship the United States. What a tool.

    Corporations, which can relocate nearly anywhere around the world, have used their flexibility as a cudgel against workers, who do not enjoy the privileges of mobility.

    While technically true I suppose, we actually don’t see lots of this. In fact, we have firms moving to the U.S. such as Japanese auto makers. But hey, what the f*ck do we need empirical evidence for?

    Chait is a tool too. Not as much of one as Klein, but still a tool.

  28. #28 |  The Agitator » Blog Archive » What’s (Still) the Matter with Thomas Frank? | 

    [...] lefty lobbing ad hominem grenades at your perceived ideological opponents. We’ve learned that with Naomi Klein. Cato is Heritage is Reason is Fox. Neocons are libertarians are conservatives are the Christian [...]

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