Is There a Second?

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

I propose….

A new rule for righties: If in the course of a policy debate, bar argument, or blog squabble you mention that the person or organization you’re debating “gets money from George Soros,” you automatically lose the argument, and forfeit your privilege of being taken seriously for no less than six months.

A new rule for lefties: If in the course of a policy debate, bar argument, or blog squabble you mention that the person or organization you’re debating “gets money from the Koch Foundation,” you automatically lose the argument, and forfeit your right to be taken seriously for  no less than six months.

(Disclosure: I have worked for and with organizations and people who have received funding from both George Soros and the Koch family. So this rule would work out pretty well for me.)

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36 Responses to “Is There a Second?”

  1. #1 |  MadRocketScientist | 


  2. #2 |  Marc | 

    Balko’s Law.

  3. #3 |  NCGuy | 

    OK – but as a leftie Balko’s Law does not prohibit me from griping about Art Pope’s puppetshow in NC, right?

  4. #4 |  hattio | 

    I’m a lefty who doesn’t know who the Koch Foundation is. So, yeah, sure.

  5. #5 |  Steve Horwitz | 

    Second the proposal and second Marc’s naming of it.

  6. #6 |  Big Chief | 

    I don’t hear the Koch’s brought up by the left like Soros is on the right so I don’t think it’s balanced. To balance it the left should be restricted from using Koch or any corporation or corporate foundation. Soros IS the money bogeyman for the right. Corporations in general are the money bogeymen for the left (see any lefty response to Citizens United).

  7. #7 |  Peter | 


    Unfortunately, one needs to be specific, because pretty much every advocacy and non-advocacy group ever is a corporation. Granted, many are 501c3 corporations, but that is still a corporation.

    I say this because I had an argument once where someone said the NY Times was not reliable due to being a corporation, and therefore having limited liability, but the BBC was reliable. I had to have them un-acronym the BBC.

  8. #8 |  Jess | 

    I’m not sure this framework really makes sense.

    Koch claims to be libertarian. Their website talks about a bunch of “social changes” they want to see, which doesn’t seem conservative at first blush. Insofar as lefties might be against liberties, or at least Koch’s favorite liberties, I guess they might worry about it. Wouldn’t they worry more about something like the Cristian Coalition? (Does that even exist anymore?)

    Of course, maybe Soros should be seen as statist rather than lefty/liberal/pwog, in which case he would be a more natural foil for a libertarian group. Being a statist wouldn’t seem to contradict anything a righty might care about. I’ve heard them complain about Soros, although that might not mean anything as I don’t necessarily expect consistency from that quarter.

    Maybe the framework’s possible ideological incoherence is actually the best argument for it; a funding-based argument makes even less sense when the source of the funding isn’t diametrically opposed to the arguer.

    However, NO ONE has a “right to be taken seriously”. This is really basic: negative rights only. b^)

  9. #9 |  Jesse Walker | 

    So Justin Raimondo can talk about Koch but Tom Frank can’t? That hardly seems fair.

  10. #10 |  Elemenope | 

    I always thought the Kochtopus was just a monster that hid under LoneWacko’s bed. I never knew it was a real thing with real thingees.

    The more you know…

  11. #11 |  Lee | 

    As a lefty, I must be ok, because I’ve never even heard of the Koch foundation (I’m assuming it’s not Ed Koch). :)

  12. #12 |  Aresen | 

    May I also suggest some another pair of rules:

    1) Anyone who suggests we ought to respect the words of any elected official loses the argument.

    2) Anyone who suggests that the Police are our protectors loses the argument.


  13. #13 |  Elemenope | 

    Anyone who suggests we ought to respect the words of any elected official loses the argument.

    I would suggest an amendment such that it is clear what is offensive is the notion that being an elected official is sufficient to have one’s words respected. Occasionally elected officials say smart things despite being elected. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    Anyone who suggests that the Police are our protectors loses the argument.

    Unless the person saying it is an elected official. Then it’s merely true.

  14. #14 |  hexag1 | 

    The right brings up Soros way more than the left brings up Koch.
    Is there anyone as prominent on the left as David Horowitz and his “Discover the Networks” site? I guess that means that everything he (and everyone else on his site) writes is suspect.

  15. #15 |  Howlin' Hobbit | 

    I’m another one (but not necessarily another lefty one) who’s never heard of this Koch thing.

    The thing that irritates me the most is the almost verbatim spew of “you must watch FOX, listen to Limbaugh, drink Bud whilst watching NASCAR and shooting off your huge collection of guns” ad nauseam every time you might mention something anywhere to the right of… well, of the extreme left fringe.

    Could there be some corollary to Balko’s law mentioning this? Just for me? Pretty please?

  16. #16 |  djm | 

    I like this rule but like the Chief up there would amend this to include any corporation, individual donor, or union. Or media outlet. We get this from the left (heard it on FOX news, so it’s rightist propaganda), or from the right (it’s from the AFL-CIO, so it’s just union bosses with an agenda), dismissing the argument as bullshit without going through the rationale of WHY the argument is bullshit. For regular readers here, it might be say, the Fraternal Order of Police.

    There are two problems with this. Firstly, it’s intellectually lazy. That an organization has a lousy track record does not exempt you from having to prove them wrong yet again.

    Secondly, it tends to alienate people outside your camp. To us, Soros might be ridiculous, but to win over those who might not only think he is not ridiculous, but might even support him, you can’t dismiss him out of hand. You need to explain why he’s wrong, ideally in their language.

  17. #17 |  Michael | 

    Who is the Koch Foundation and how much money is the US government giving them?

  18. #18 |  JP Uno | 


    You can have your corollary just as soon as I stop hearing about how I’m a gay hippie Harvard-Yale coastal elite chablis-drinking vegetarian Prius-driving pussy who lives in the anti-America parts of America just because I think it’s OK to have two mommies.

  19. #19 |  Lloyd Flack | 

    I would suggest alternative rules.

    If someone on the left talks about opponents being motivated by greed they loose the argument automatically.

    If someone on the right talks about aopponents being motivated by power lust they loose the argument automatically.

    Both cases are examples of focussing on what might be possible secondary motives and ingnoring the real primary motives of opponents. This is done because thes are motives that it can feel good to oppose. You don’t have to admit that your adversary might have a point. Most people don’t live attacking the well intentioned so they try to avoid admitting that opponents have good intentions. They need to recognoze that good and evil aren’t opposites and evil can come from obsessed good. You have to learn to go for the throats of the self-righteous and to do so have rcognize that good has to be kept in check and opposition to evil has to be kept in check. (Opposing evil is not the same thing as doing good. And in fact almost all effective opposition to evil requires means that we should prefer not to use.)

  20. #20 |  Tom G | 

    I like reading Balloon Juice but it’s hard to comment there on anything Reason magazine does, because most of the commenters lump all libertarians together, and assume that Reason (i.e. the Koch Foundation) is the only libertarian blog on the net.
    Once in awhile, they will grudgingly admit that you, Radley, are the lone good guy there.
    Trying to get traction for “hey, glibertarianism exists, but there’s this other thing called ‘classic liberalism’ ” is damn hard. And you can forget about anarchism, too.

  21. #21 |  Mike | 

    This is simply the latest in the “attack the source” method of debate. I get this all the time. I’ll link up an article from, say, the Huffington Post and the response will be, “Dude, you’re linked to HuffPo?”

  22. #22 |  Mattocracy | 

    I will happily maintain that Soros is much worse than Koch. Koch actually supports freedom and liberty more consistantly than Soros, who hates guns, loves nanny statism, and generally believes no one should be free to do things he doesn’t agree with.

    Koch does funnel into some groups that a little too socially conservative for my tastes, but Soros doesn’t give any money to any group that is remotely libertarian in anyway. When Soros talks about democracy, he means a system where political support is traded for corporate favoritism dressed up in progressive do-goodery. Soros has a very bad agenda. Koch finds allies where it can, even if they aren’t perfect.

    But then again, I’m proudly biased towards my political beliefs.

  23. #23 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Off topic: British refusal to punish cop who kills member of the public

  24. #24 |  Michael Pack | 

    As long as ‘progressives’ are called what they really are,socialist.If the commerce clause was used as written 50% of the U.S. government would not exist.

  25. #25 |  Radley Balko | 

    Soros doesn’t give any money to any group that is remotely libertarian in anyway.

    Soros has given money to Cato. He also funds the Drug Policy Alliance, which only works on drug issues, and a number of criminal justice reform groups.

  26. #26 |  Mar | 

    Can we encourage lefties to rail against the Sciafe Foundation?
    Its not like they ran out of money.

  27. #27 |  Cornellian | 

    Does that mean that people who get funding from both organizations can’t make any argument at all, or do the funding sources sort of cancel each other out, so that you’re arguing from a clean slate?

  28. #28 |  adolphus | 

    I find this whole thread amusing as a perfect example of bureaucratic mission creep. Radley suggests two simple, possibly tongue-in-cheek rules for informal political debate. But then all these anti-government, anti-bureaucratic, libertarian types (or those enough to comment at The Agitator) want to add amendments, clarifications, definitions, explanations, etc etc.

    I know! Lets form a commission and have hearings on just who Koch and Soros are, where they got their money, where they spend their money, what kind of corporations are they, and which one is “worse,” what metric we should use when judging “worse,” and exactly what shape the table at which we hold these hearings should be.

    By the time “Radley’s Bill” becomes “Radley’s Law” it’ll be 4,000 pages and none of the commenters who will vote on it will have read it.

  29. #29 |  libarbarian | 

    Same with “Alinsky”.

    2 years ago an average rightie didn’t know who he was. Now they consider him the supergenius tactician of the left.

  30. #30 |  Kevin | 


    Most politicians and groups lust for power, it seems unfair to take that argument away from only one side. I guess the same goes for greed. These arguments generally come up because the person defending the politician or policy is making claims like: “They just want to help the common person.” Perhaps we should ban all three from discourse.

    #28 Nicely done. The way we make laws is insane. The reason politicians don’t read them is because it’s almost impossible to do so. The founding fathers could not have foreseen the need, but a “clear language, inline amendment” clause would have been nice.

    This post is amended such that the word “Perhaps” is inserted before the words “The founding” in the second paragraph.

    This post is amended by striking the word Most in the first paragraph and replaces it with the words “Some, but by no means all, and especially not the NRA, PETA, or sitting members of Congress”.

    This post is amended by deleting both the first and second paragraph and inserting the words “Give this poster lots of money with little or no oversight as to how it is spent.”

  31. #31 |  Mattocracy | 

    I was unaware that Soros gave money to Cato. I’ve never seen it listed as one of the regular organizations he donates to. I’ve only read about him donating to and other similiar organizations. Perhaps my biases are still in high gear, but I don’t think this is enough for me to really change my opinion of Soros seeing as how he has been a proponent of so many other nannystate initiatives.

  32. #32 |  Duncan20903 | 

    You seem to have forgotten that George Soros is the devil himself in human form!

  33. #33 |  Jeff Spears | 

    Why not just examine the claims made to test for their truth?

    CAP puts out many dubious articles and edited videos to support their bias, or affiliation if you prefer.
    It isn’t the Soros funding that makes them false, wrong, or deceptively edited.
    The same applies to claims made by those on the opposite of the political spectrum.

    The motive of the speaker does not weigh for or against the truth of what they claim. It is their speech that must be examined to determine to what extent their position has truth or merit.

    Blanket “rules” such as this are lazy thinking.

    Furthermore, once someone is proved wrong about a topic, issue, or fact claim, there is no rational basis to suggest that they are incapable of being correct about future statements for six months.

    They may never get anything right in the future, or their next sentence might be a pearl of wisdom.
    Either way, we own it to ourselves to test each claim on its own merit.

  34. #34 |  supercat | 

    The term “greed” is often used to refer to two different concepts, frequently in such a way as to equate them.

    -1- Greed may refer to a desire to keep the wealth that one has generated either through one’s own direct labor, or by facilitating the efficient exchange of goods and services (e.g. offering someone $1,000 for 100 widgets, when his next-best option would have been lower, and then charging 100 people $15 each for a widget, when their next-best option would have been higher).

    -2- Greed may also refer to a desire to have the government take money from others and give it to the greedy person, or prevent people from using some other efficient means of producing and exchanging resources, such that they have no choice but to use those offered by the greedy person.

    Leftists tend to regard the first type of greed as evil (especially as practiced by those who are financially successful) and the second type as virtuous (since it helps put the “evil” people in their place). Non-leftists see them the opposite way.

  35. #35 |  supercat | 

    //Furthermore, once someone is proved wrong about a topic, issue, or fact claim, there is no rational basis to suggest that they are incapable of being correct about future statements for six months.//

    If someone is consistently wrong about something, unless the person explicitly acknowledges that they were wrong and they now recognize why they were wrong, why bother taking much time reading what they have to say? It’s possible that someone who was consistently wrong might recognize and acknowledge their mistake without you knowing about it, so ‘checking back’ periodically to see if that’s happened is probably not a bad idea, but one generally shouldn’t hold one’s breath waiting for people to change.

  36. #36 |  hexag1 | 

    [i]When Soros talks about democracy, he means a system where political support is traded for corporate favoritism dressed up in progressive do-goodery. Soros has a very bad agenda.[/i]

    While I don’t much care for Soros’ politics, I think that this is a bit unfair to the man. Soros is a serious thinker on political, economic (obviously), social, and philosophical matters. Soros has not made, and probably will not make, any major contributions to any intellectual fields (besides the management of capital), but there is no question that he has sharp picture of the world, and thinks hard about big questions.
    Try having a look at the description of Soros in Niall Ferguson’s “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World”