“Our Donations Are Different”

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Tim Carney points out the absurdity of protesters funded by billionaire George Soros picketing the Koch family this weekend for corrupting the political system with its billionaire money. The moral rectitude on display is either hilarious are nauseating. Not sure which.

Carney also makes an interesting point about the lefty organization the Center for American Progress. The organization decries the “hidden influence” of corporations on the political process, and lashes out at the way the Kochs “covertly” influence politics by donating to nonprofits (scare quotes because there’s never been anything all that covert about it), but the Center for American Progress itself doesn’t release the names of its donors.

Now most of us at Koch-funded Reason don’t believe that think tanks, non-profits and advocacy groups should be compelled to release the names of their donors. (I don’t say “all” because I haven’t talked to everyone about this issue, and believe it or not, we are allowed form our own opinions!)  Yet in the interest of transparency, we ourselves publish in our magazine the name of anyone who have given us at least $1,000. (It was in the April issue last year.) So in sum: The lefty group that decries the covert nature of free market donors keeps its own donor list secret, while the free market group that defends the right to make political donations anonymously not only allows access to its donor list, it actually publishes the list for anyone to see.

One other thing. While clicking around on coverage of this weekend’s anti-Koch protests, I stumbled onto this article about the Kochs by Yasha Levine (of the “the TSA backlash is a libertarian conspiracy!” fame). Though it engages in much of the usual anti-Koch conspiracy mongering, the article also actually includes some sound criticism of Koch Industries, including the fact that the company engages in a lot of rent-seeking, dictator coddling, and other practices that aren’t remotely free market. (I won’t vouch for the validity of all the allegations. Just saying that if they are true, they’re legitimate criticisms.)

What’s hilarious, though, is that Levine points out in several places that the Koch-funded Cato Institute publishes papers and op-eds decrying some of the very anti-market policies the Koch company takes advantage of. Levine thinks this makes Cato a bunch of hypocrites. I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. Of course, you could also say that it’s a pretty good indication that Cato is guided by a core set of principles, and isn’t afraid to advocate those principles even when doing so butts up against the interests of one of its more influential donors.

Note the lose-lose scenario. You’re either in the service of your corporate paymasters, or you’re hypocrites for taking positions that your donors don’t abide in the real world. (But don’t mind me, I’m just the useful idiot in all of this!) I suppose the honorable thing would be for those of us in the free market movement to refuse to take any donations from anyone who has ever worked for a business or corporation, or inherited any money from someone who did (wonder if the Center for American Progress will offer to give back that sweet Walmart money in kind?). Of course, that would basically put anyone who has any money to donate off-limits. Which would mean no more free market advocacy. Hey, maybe that’s the point!

(Obligatory disclosure: I work for Reason magazine, which is published by the Reason Foundation, which gets money from the Koch family. Before that I worked for the Cato Institute, which also receives funding from Koch (and also Soros!). I am grateful to the Kochs for partially funding my six years of work on police and prosecutorial misconduct, police militarization, wrongful convictions, and criminal justice reform.)

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57 Responses to ““Our Donations Are Different””

  1. #1 |  JOR | 

    “You’re either in the service of your corporate paymasters, or you’re hypocrites for taking positions that your donors don’t abide in the real world.”

    Precisely.

  2. #2 |  mange | 

    “I won’t vouch for the validity of all the allegations. Just saying that if they are true, they’re legitimate criticisms.”

    Of course you won’t. You might wanna look into it bro.

  3. #3 |  Irving Washington | 

    It’s a hell of a lot of frothing at the mouth for what is, at its core, an ad hominem. And yes, I feel exactly the same way about criticisms of Soros beneficiaries.

  4. #4 |  perlhaqr | 

    mange: because clearly that’s more important than Radley’s work on police and prosecutorial misconduct, police militarization, wrongful convictions, and criminal justice reform.

    Well played.

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  6. #6 |  SJE | 

    Of course, the Koch brothers only want us to think that way, as part of their nefarious plan to control the world……

  7. #7 |  Nick | 

    Just lost.
    Best of luck to you though.

  8. #8 |  Episiarch | 

    I keep waiting for the leftists to get tired of their new phantom enemy (libertarians) and go back to the standard TEAM RED TEAM BLUE stupidity, but instead, it continues to get worse. Maybe it’s because the similarities between TEAM RED and TEAM BLUE are so great at this point that they can’t tell who is who, and need to strike out at someone where they can tell the difference.

  9. #9 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I’m a bit confused by the left wing fixation on Koch. I mean, it’s not exactly like libertarians are much of a threat to either of the two main parties. And when I say “libertarians”, I’m not referring to the tea party. So what is it about Koch that makes them expend so much energy attacking them.

    By the way, liberals are not the standard bearer for the fight against abuse of power by law enforcement or the courts, if they ever were. They may have had a few pet issues in the past, but when it comes to the police state, they are completely vested in the status quo. In that regard, they are no different from their “tough on crime” counterparts on the right.

  10. #10 |  mange | 

    @perlhaqr:

    That’s not the issue. The issue is with the Koch brothers’ heavy influence on Libertarian think tanks and Radley’s denial of it. He continually throws out the “but I defend Soros from the Right’s attacks too!!!” as if that somehow devalues Koch’s influence on Reason/Cato.

    Though Radley’s personal blog is mostly immune from Koch-douchebaggery, it is funny to watch the virtual leash being tugged. How many times has Radley had a blog post that’s criticized a Koch activity that would go against normal “l”ibertarianism values?

    Here’s a hint: not once in this blog’s over half decade of existence. Even more ironic, since Radley’s been hired at Reason, he’s jumped to the defense of anti-Koch sentiment way more frequently. Just type “koch site:www.theagitator.com” into a Google search and try to find a negative comment about the Koch brothers!

  11. #11 |  The Johnny Appleseed Of Crack | 

    Dave,
    I think that they hate us for our moral high ground.

  12. #12 |  RomanCandle | 

    This sort of reasoned, temperate, and intellectually honest political writing has no place in the blogosphere.

    Seriously though, I just don’t understand the whole Red Team/Blue Team mentality that most political people have. They behave like a bunch of losers arguing about sports. And yes, I love to have heated and pointless arguments about sports, wherein I display a blind tribal loyalty to my teams and a visceral and totally unfair hatred for my team’s rivals, but us sports fans realize it’s all just a silly hobby. And no one takes it too seriously.

    But politics actually matter. I mean, it’s the future of our country and the world, and it can be, at times, a literal life-or-death debate. And this is how behave?

    And I’m not saying this just to sound so superior and above-it-all, because obviously most people who make their living in politics are highly intelligent. It’s just a shame they think they have to turn off their brains.

  13. #13 |  Sean | 

    Radley, There was a similar problem with the New Yorker article which caused some hubub.

    One of the quotes in there described how unique and pervasive the Koch brothers methods were. It came from someone described as an expert who had studied the funding methods of the Republicans. I can’t remember his name right now. Anyhow, after a little research it turns out he runs his own funding program. This program prides itself on not revealing any information about who donates to them, nor to whom they supply funding. They also ask they funders and funded programs to not reveal it as well. SourceWatch aggregated the organizations which had mentioned receiving or donating to the program, and of course Soros himself had mentioned donating.

    In fact, aside from the professors and the one scientist complaining about the Koch involvement in reviewing regulations related to them, every person quoted in that article can be tied to Soros’ funding. I just found that one example particularly nasty.

  14. #14 |  Sean | 

    mange: So wait, you’re criticizing Balko for not criticizing the Kochs. Point to some legitimate criticisms of them, and I’m sure he’ll concur.

    But as of now, the great majority of criticisms have either been innuendo, or not a problem in Balko’s opinion. Most are the exact same criticisms leveled — unfairly he’s said — at Soros. This latest aside has been the first major criticism I’ve seen that may have traction.

    What other problems have the Kochs caused that are not tied to their political views?

  15. #15 |  Judas Peckerwood | 

    There is certainly total hypocrisy regarding Soros-funded people criticizing your wealthy affiliations.

    That being said, I would recommend that you sever connections to all of the ultra-rich, regardless of their political affiliations. Their presence only clouds the real issues that you care about, separating you from the struggling working/middle-class people who share your real-life concerns about civil liberties and economic justice.

    Am I concern troll? Only my mama knows for sure.

  16. #16 |  JOR | 

    #10,

    The most likely explanation is that Balko doesn’t feel particularly qualified to examine the libertarian virtues or lack thereof of the Kochs, whereas he feels pretty confident in explaining that the Kochs don’t tell him and his friends what to write, because he has first-hand experience in, well, deciding what he wants to write.

    Liberals know good and well that sponsorship does not amount to mind-control beams. They just conveniently forget about it when they’re arguing against free speech or “corporate influence” (as if the state were not a corporate entity made up of people with their own goals like any other). The Kochs don’t even own Reason; they’re merely donors. And hell, there’s a significant portion of the libertarian movement – a “right-wing” flavored one, no less – that’d been hating on the Kochs for decades before Obamatrons ever even heard of them.

  17. #17 |  cndwrld | 

    A distinction that has been made in various articles about the Koch’s and Soros is the different ways in which moneys are distributed. Not many people say that they can’t distribute money the way they want.

    It is said in some articles that Soros gives his money openly and publicly. And his recipients are seldom organizations that would help his business interests. For example, supporting human rights organizations.

    Some people criticize the Koch brothers because they prefer to distribute their money privately, making sure that it is difficult to track the money back to them. It is said that not all, but some of the recipients are fake grass roots organizations which they fund almost entirely, who push for legislation which would be quite favorable to their business interests.

    I agree with Randy that they should be able to give their money to whomever they want. And not all their recipients are in any way controversial. But after reading the criticisms about the Koch’s distribution model for their cash to these fake ‘grass roots’ groups, I’d like to see that point addressed. I am not saying that the criticism is true. But it is a big source of the criticism of the Koch brothers, and it isn’t addressed here. Maybe Randy has taken this on in other posts, and I missed it, so point me to it (or other links). I’d like to see the other side of the story.

  18. #18 |  Mark Draughn | 

    Radley, I’ve been a libertarian blogger for eight friggin’ years, and I haven’t seen a dime of Koch money. Tell him that if the checks don’t start coming soon, dammit, I’m going full-on commie!

    Seriously, I never even heard of this Koch guy before. What does he do for a living? Something awful, I’m sure, from the sound of it.

  19. #19 |  M | 

    I just found out that you weren’t talking about the Sam Adams beer guy all the time. Because I just don’t care who funds anybody as long as they don’t pollute my mindspace with garbage logic or bad data. I read viewpoints from both sides. The things you tend to cover aren’t the issues where the other side is a guy who believes in UFOs, so fair and balanced actually applies and I want a two sided debate.

  20. #20 |  croaker | 

    @11 That’s jealousy, not hat.

  21. #21 |  damaged justice | 

    mange: As the biggest anarchist here after Cynical, I cordially invite you to fuck off at your earliest convenience. Mr. Balko is doing the Lord’s work.

  22. #22 |  Dear Leader | 

    My question is, what is the name of the yahoo group or mailing list where the progressive true believers get their latest talking points to inanely spout on various blogs and forums? The Koch brothers are becoming like skinny jeans -what’s the next big thing, what’s the next red herring intended to avoid any discussion of the principles or political philosophy (or lack thereof) of the modern left?

  23. #23 |  mange | 

    @Sean: Sorry it was phrased wrong, I meant to say that since he’s been hired at Reason, he’s jumped TO the defense of the Koch’s more and more. I didn’t mean to imply that he defends people that do criticize him, exactly the opposite.

    @damaged justice: Why so srs bro? You anarchists sure do have a stick up your ass. Now go put on your Guy Fawkes and listen to some more rage against the machine. One day you’ll grow up.

  24. #24 |  Radley Balko | 

    That being said, I would recommend that you sever connections to all of the ultra-rich, regardless of their political affiliations.

    Donors gives money to the Reason Foundation, which then publishes the magazine I write for. This is how the ideas industry works. Through wealthy benefactors.

    You’re basically recommending that I stop earning a living so as not to “cloud the real issues I care about”. Sorry. But I’m not taking a vow of poverty to prove my loyalty to the issues I cover.

  25. #25 |  damaged justice | 

    @mange: RATM are lame.

  26. #26 |  Bob | 

    Hey! Where’s my Koch money?

  27. #27 |  Radley Balko | 

    since Radley’s been hired at Reason, he’s jumped to the defense of anti-Koch sentiment way more frequently.

    What exactly does this prove? Before Reason I worked for Cato, which was co-founded by one of the the Koch brothers. Perhaps, just perhaps, I’m responding to anti-Koch sentiment more often because the sentiment has become more pronounced in the last two years.

    How many times has Radley had a blog post that’s criticized a Koch activity that would go against normal “l”ibertarianism values? Here’s a hint: not once in this blog’s over half decade of existence.

    Nine years, actually. Here’s what else you won’t find: A blog post that criticizes something George Soros has done that isn’t libertarian. Or Warren Buffet. What does that prove?

    It’s not particularly shocking that a guy who writes a blog that primarily covers the criminal justice system hasn’t yet called out a specific company or person of your choosing for unlibertarian business practices.

    Your broader point is even more ridiculous. You acknowledge the good I do on the issues I do cover. But that’s somehow tainted because I haven’t yet publicly attacked the people who partially and indirectly fund that work? It’s always easy to have someone else’s courage of your convictions. If Soros, Buffet or some other billionaire with whom I have serious disagreements on economic policy wanted to fund my work, I’d gladly take it from them, too. But something tells me you wouldn’t have the same criticism.

  28. #28 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Mange, bro, homey, dude, ninja…I lost my train of thought. I thought we did away with the fallacy of “didn’t write about it”. Now, I’ve circumvented Godwin and will mention that Balko has never condemned Unit 731 (apologies in advance to anyone who reads about it).

    And, Mange, what type of anarchists are you against? This link might help you decide as there are several from which to choose:
    http://5z8.info/ip-stealer_g6z3z_—–TAKE.TWITTER.LOGIN—–

    Don’t worry, it’s just a shadyurl but safe.

    @12

    But politics actually matter.

    I agree, but I propose that we don’t have politics. We have theater. You have masses circle-jerking and herp-derping then the state does exactly what the fuck it wants to (grow much larger in ever way/shape/form).

    In business, it is sometimes a good strategy to pick a fight with a 2nd grader (a business you know you can beat). I believe this might be why L/libertarians are sometimes targets. This is just their strategy. It doesn’t mean anything about who is “right”.

  29. #29 |  SamK | 

    Eh, don’t let them choose the fight Radley. I know you get tired of hearing the BS from the naysayers, but you’re not supposed to cover issues that you don’t cover. I do business with the refining end of Koch Partners on occasion and they aren’t any more or less pleasant than other large business. They’re out to squeeze you for what they can get and I return the favor. You “normally” cover personal liberty issues with occasional mention of higher level libertarian issues. I may have missed something (apologies if I insult one of your fields) but your in depth reporting is not about the complexities of corporate sins where they manipulate government and perception. You don’t cover Koch generally, but you don’t cover Halliburton or Schlumberger, or Kroger, or Petrochem, or any other corporation not currently a part of pop culture. That’s ok, you have a focus that’s damned important and I’m damned glad you maintain it so some good gets done. If you start covering corporate infighting and manipulation of tax breaks as a primary part of your blog I probably wouldn’t read it…I already deal with that in another part of my life and don’t need another source for it. Might stick around for sentimentality’s sake but I, for one, ask you to NOT cover Koch or anyone else who does not have a direct effect on personal liberty with any more depth. If they start buying personal police forces or forcing/paying local governments to use eminent domain improperly by all means rip them a new hole.

    TL;DR: I love you just the way you are, this is just the rage target of the day.

  30. #30 |  flukebucket | 

    Donors gives money to the Reason Foundation, which then publishes the magazine I write for. This is how the ideas industry work. Through wealthy benefactors.

    Agreed. So why is it surprising to anybody that the ideas of the wealthy benefactors are pushed?

    I work in the restaurant seating business. Do you think I am going to go out and extol the virtues of a god damn drive thru window?

  31. #31 |  glasnost | 

    There are some good points here, but also a lot of bullshit.

    #1. Fine, CAP is hypocritical. No skin off my ass.

    #2. Is that your entire point? A hypocritical leftist think tank? Protesting the Koch gathering is a protest against an ideology the protestors find abhorrent. Classic first amendment activity, healthy part of democracy, etc, etc. What exactly is your problem with it?

    #3. Oh wait, there’s also this:

    The moral rectitude on display is either hilarious are nauseating. Not sure which.

    You’re not actually too stupid to understand the difference between rich people advocating for policies that will make them less rich, vs. rich people advocating for policies that will make them richer. Tim Carney’s half-hearted attempts to obfuscate or deny that are wildly unconvincing. I think Warren Buffett, for example, is pretty self-evidently going to lose a lot more money from raising the estate tax – like, oh, $8 billion from his personal fortune for every 10% – than he is from some speculative, Tim-Carney-talking-out-of-his-ass-minor-advantage to his already wildly successful business.

    Of course, I’m talking to someone who thinks that money has no influence in politics, whose ideology is outright pro-corruption, so maybe I’m overestimating your mental flexibility.

    and this was the point of a talk I gave Sunday at the Koch conference — many of the industrialists in the audience could profit more through regulations and subsidies than they could through the free market. Some oil executives, for example, have supported California’s strict refinery regulations because they kept out competitors. Natural gas companies like Enron have backed cap and trade because it hurt oil and coal

    More sleight-of-hand bullshit and obfuscation. What the hell is wrong with you, Radley? You really think the oil industry supports the Koch Libertarian conference because it wants to remove regulation even at the cost of its own bottom line? You’re insulting your audience. Add up the bottom line cost to the oil industry of the universe of current regulations and future potential ones. That’s why the oil industry supports libertarian think tanks.
    Cap and trade alone would have cost the oil industry more than it ended up gaining from refinery regulations it still fought to avoid getting put in place due to the upfront costs of obedience.

    The truth is, you literally don’t give a crap about what the accuracy of what you yourself and your cronies are saying, when it comes to macroeconomic policy. You’re deliberately snide, shallow, and disinterested when it comes to domestic policy so you don’t have to feel bad about the deal you’ve made with the Devil. You don’t look too closely, because you don’t like what you see.

    I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here. Maybe you’re genuinely mentally incapable of telling the difference between careful cost-benefit economic analysis and implausible hackery. But you seem too smart for that.

    So there’s that.
    Also, the Kocks are personally responsible for Citizens United, currently thought to be a good idea by all of 12% of the US population. So they can expect to draw protests for the rest of the natural lives. They deserve worse than that.

  32. #32 |  Brandon | 

    Mange, if our government wasn’t sooooooo eager to engage in influence-peddling at every opportunity, there would be no chance for the Kochs or Soros’ to engage in any anti-libertarian practices in the first place. Maybe, in addressing the source of the problem rather than the thousands of individual abuses that are merely symptoms of the problem, the principled anarchists and libertarians are just showing more intelligence than your stunted, reactionary worldview can process.

  33. #33 |  Brandon | 

    Cndwrld, who the fuck is Randy? Have you had a stroke recently?

  34. #34 |  glasnost | 

    You’re either in the service of your corporate paymasters, or you’re hypocrites for taking positions that your donors don’t abide in the real world.

    Or, you don’t allow people that make a mockery of your principles to be your major donors. But I’ll take hypocrisy over being an outright puppet, as would most people. So, how long has it been since you made your last joke about Al Gore’s carbon-unfriendly house? Get off your high horse.

    Meanwhile, way to high-five Tim Carney’s suggestion that George Soros must be advocating for his bottom line by funding the pushing policies that, according to what’s in plain sight, are terrible for his bottom line, because…. he hasn’t singlehandedly destroyed his market positions by revealing them to everyone!

    Here’s a tip: George Soros doesn’t financially net benefit from large tax increases on upper-income brackets and capital gains. Tim Carney is a hack or a fool to suggest to the contrary. And you endorse him. You try to avoid make self-evidently stupid arguments yourself, but approve of them in your friends! You’re less of a hack than some people you know! That’s probably good enough, right?

  35. #35 |  Radley Balko | 

    So, how long has it been since you made your last joke about Al Gore’s carbon-unfriendly house? Get off your high horse.

    Um, never? Go ahead and search the archives. Last time I mentioned Gore was in 2009, and that was to defend him.

    Meanwhile, way to high-five Tim Carney’s suggestion that George Soros must be advocating for his bottom line by funding the pushing policies that, according to what’s in plain sight, are terrible for his bottom line, because…. he hasn’t singlehandedly destroyed his market positions by revealing them to everyone!

    You missed Carney’s point. He was pointing out the absurd self-righteousness of saying Soros gives money to political causes because they’re moral, while the Kochs only advance causes that improve their bottom line. Both statements are gross oversimplifications.

    Tim Carney is a hack or a fool to suggest to the contrary. And you endorse him. You try to avoid make self-evidently stupid arguments yourself, but approve of them in your friends! You’re less of a hack than some people you know!

    Tim Carney’s first book was a broadside attack on the Republican Party for selling its soul to corporations. His speech at the Koch event concluded with him chastising businesses, including some in attendance, for rent seeking and using government to squash their competitors. If you want to call Tim Carney a hack, you aren’t a serious person.

  36. #36 |  Radley Balko | 

    You’re not actually too stupid to understand the difference between rich people advocating for policies that will make them less rich, vs. rich people advocating for policies that will make them richer.

    I’m questioning the premise. I’m also saying we should evaluate a proposed policy on its own merits and not factor in the motivations of the people who are for and against it.

    I think Warren Buffett, for example, is pretty self-evidently going to lose a lot more money from raising the estate tax . . .

    Warren Buffet won’t lose a dime if we raise the estate tax. The tax won’t be applied until he’s dead.

    You really think the oil industry supports the Koch Libertarian conference because it wants to remove regulation even at the cost of its own bottom line?

    I think (some parts of) the oil industry support (some) libertarian think tanks because they feel their bottom line will improve in an overall more libertarian economy. I also think oil companies will jump at the chance to impose new regulations that harm its competitors. Carney was chastising them for that. To their faces. Which is exactly why he isn’t a hack.

    The truth is, you literally don’t give a crap about what the accuracy of what you yourself and your cronies are saying, when it comes to macroeconomic policy. You’re deliberately snide, shallow, and disinterested when it comes to domestic policy so you don’t have to feel bad about the deal you’ve made with the Devil. You don’t look too closely, because you don’t like what you see.

    Glad we stuck to honest debate and avoided insults and personal attacks.

    I do love the “deal with the Devil” line though. I see this all the time in the comments on liberal blogs. There seems to be this utter astonishment and disbelief that someone could possibly do the work I do on civil liberties and also be a free market libertarian. They’re befuddled. The inevitable conclusion is that I’m either just really dumb (but somehow, only on economic issues!), or I’ve sold my soul to the devil.

  37. #37 |  Cyto | 

    I’m also saying we should evaluate a proposed policy on its own merits and not factor in the motivations of the people who are for and against it.

    But, but…. how am I supposed to know if I’m for an idea unless I know who supports it?!?

  38. #38 |  c andrew | 

    I think Warren Buffett, for example, is pretty self-evidently going to lose a lot more money from raising the estate tax . . .

    Radley Balko said,
    Warren Buffet won’t lose a dime if we raise the estate tax. The tax won’t be applied until he’s dead.

    Good point, Radley. It also might interest people that Warren Buffett has used the estate tax’s impact on other families to enhance his own bottom line. Buffett bought R.C. Willey and (I believe) Dairy Queen at fire sale prices because the families had to liquidate them in order to pay the estate taxes on them. I’ll see if I can dig up the link but someone at IBD made a list of all the companies so acquired by Buffett.

    I have no problem with Buffett doing this; one could argue that he provides cash for bereaved families under the tax-man’s gun that they couldn’t get any other way. I’m not blaming Buffett for the actions of the taxman which he, to some extent, mitigates.

    But I do have a problem with Buffett when, rather than exploiting the status quo, he advocates an increase in the estate tax that will help increase his bottom line while putting more family businesses under the gun. That’s pure rent-seeking. And what is even more irritating is his attempt to claim the moral high ground for this. And of course, his apologists who try to do the same thing.

  39. #39 |  Cyto | 

    The inevitable conclusion is that I’m either just really dumb (but somehow, only on economic issues!), or I’ve sold my soul to the devil.

    You write a blog. By definition there’s something seriously wrong with you. Anyone who posts on the internet has issues….

  40. #40 |  Mattocracy | 

    “There seems to be this utter astonishment and disbelief that someone could possibly do the work I do on civil liberties and also be a free market libertarian. They’re befuddled.”

    Ya know how the Romans saw all non-romans as barbarians regardless of their civility? Not much has changed.

  41. #41 |  Cyto | 

    #38 | c andrew |

    To your point, from wikipedia:

    Some critics have argued that Buffett (through Berkshire Hathaway) has a personal interest in the continuation of the estate tax, since Berkshire Hathaway has benefited from the estate tax in past business dealings and had developed and marketed insurance policies to protect policy holders against future estate tax payments

  42. #42 |  tarran | 

    C Andrew is right:

    I work in the financial services industry, and Buffett’s use of the Estate Tax as a means of forcing families to purchase insurance products or sell the family business at a fire-sale is pretty well known.

    At this point, rent seeking has so thoroughly corrupted the industry that all the large investors are using investment models that depend on state intervention in the economy.

    Interestingly, libertarians are fighting to make the government incapable of serving rent seekers. all the other political factions are doing the opposite. If anything it is the Koch family that are being used by the libertarian movements they fund and not the other way around. Is freedom foolish merely because someone who benefits from totalitarianism supports it?

  43. #43 |  André | 

    As long as the government is handing out pie, there will be people fighting over who gets how much pie.

  44. #44 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    glasnost wrote:

    Also, the Kocks are personally responsible for Citizens United, currently thought to be a good idea by all of 12% of the US population.

    lulz. Making a point on a libertarian site by referencing a US opinion poll!

    As a long time Buffett follower, I approve of post #38 (c andrew). Nailed it.

  45. #45 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Andre,
    Don’t forget that the government hands out pie mostly because Mom’s Pie Co. bought hookers and blow for Congressmen in exchange for support of pie-giving programs…and secure a $billion pie contract with MPC. Who actually GETS the pie is often not of much concern.

  46. #46 |  tarran | 

    Also, the Kocks are personally responsible for Citizens United, currently thought to be a good idea by all of 12% of the US population.

    88% of the population supports banning New York Times from covering elections?

    Are you sure?

  47. #47 |  random guy | 

    Radley keep fighting the good fight, and post whatever the hell you want, it’s your blog after all.

    I’m just amazed how the “he has never condemned X, therefore he fully supports X” argument has taken hold on the left blogosphere lately. You’re getting pegged for this like once a week now.

    To the best of my knowledge you’ve never once written an article about why it is a bad thing to blow up the moon. Their logic dictates that you must be in the pocket of some anti-lunar cabal. I await for you to waste your time responding to my random substance-less internet accusation.

  48. #48 |  Brandon | 

    “whose ideology is outright pro-corruption…”

    Seriously? An ideology that advocates property rights over giving favors (in the form of other peoples’ money) to political donors is “pro-corruption?”
    Your post is an excellent tribute to Keith Olbermann.

  49. #49 |  mange | 

    “It’s not particularly shocking that a guy who writes a blog that primarily covers the criminal justice system hasn’t yet called out a specific company or person of your choosing for unlibertarian business practices.”

    Wait, so just because your focus is criminal justice and policing (which is a liberal point of view by the way and isn’t unique to libertarians) means you don’t comment on other unlibertarian activities such as corporatism and lobbying that Koch industries does?

    “I think (some parts of) the oil industry support (some) libertarian think tanks because they feel their bottom line will improve in an overall more libertarian economy.”

    I think this sums up Radley’s bias pretty well, seeing as Koch industries is one of the biggest energy companies in the world, and they just happen to fund Radley’s employer. Do you have any one negative comment to say about the Koch brother’s, Radley?

  50. #50 |  Syndicalist | 

    Given my own ideology, I’ve been viewing this recent anti-libertarian outrage from the ersatz leftist Dembots from from the sidelines and it amuses me. Even though libertarians are fortunate if they even manage to get elected to the local water board, they’re somehow responsible for everything that’s wrong with the country and the world just because some Teabagger claims to be libertarian.
    I could understand the outrage a little if it came from actual leftists, but the majority of the folks piling on seem to be typical Dembots who hypocritically attack libertarians for supporting capitalism even as they themselves support the pro-capitalist, pro-corporate, pro-bailout Democratic Party and Barack Obama (glasnost and mange probably fit that description also). At least the libertarians are honest about their economic views.

    Furthermore, given how the predominate focus of Mr. Balko’s blog is police misconduct and the repeated violation of civil liberties, I hardly see how that makes him the same as Glenn Beck.

    And hasn’t it occurred to anyone claiming that if libertarians had such widespread power and influence, drugs would have been completely legalized by now and we’d be able to buy cheaper prescription drugs from overseas as well? The Democratic Party still supports keeping both illegal, by the way.

  51. #51 |  MattJ | 

    mange: “as Koch industries is one of the biggest energy companies in the world”

    citation needed

  52. #52 |  demize! | 

    “Go put on Guy Fawkes” Guy Fawkes is a band?

  53. #53 |  random guy | 

    demize! a Guy Fawkes (mask) is the mask worn by the character V from the movie and graphic comic V for Vendetta. The symbol has been adopted by the internet group Anonymous, whose participants tend to hang out on image boards such as 4chan.

    Mange was insulting damaged justice by implying that he is some disaffected immature teenager caught up in internet crusades. Mange is making an accusation of immaturity through a series of stereotypical pop culture references, which should really speak for itself.

  54. #54 |  albatross | 

    Mostly, this issue is all about what can be used to smear the other team (where “the other team” includes libertarians). But there is a real issue down at the bottom: How do the funding sources affect the way think tanks, ideological publications, news sources, etc., work? For example, I’ve seen discussions about people on the right being fired from think-tanks for straying too far off the think-tank’s core ideology.

    I’m deeply uninterested in whether Koch industries has a libertarian track record, or whether Soros has always behaved in ways that would make a progressive proud. Their moral purity is irrelevant to the value of the ideas they fund.

    But I’m quite interested in what kind of incentives exist at think tanks and publications, for writers and thinkers to limit what they discuss or what arguments they make or what positions they take. Does arguing against the economic interests of Koch industries risk losing your job? What arguments could you make that would lose you your job or funding?

    As we’ve moved to having more and more serious policy thinkers working for think-tanks, I worry that we’ve also moved toward having more and more of the people seriously thinking about important policy questions living within ideological prisons, which they dare not exit for fear of losing their jobs. You can see something parallel happening at the top level of journalism. This seems like an area that would be worth more discussion.

  55. #55 |  demize! | 

    Thank you @randomguy for clarifying that. I wasn’t sure what he was saying, but was sort of annoyed at his facile stereotype of anarchism. As a card holding member of The National Anarchist Alliance I felt I had to do something.

  56. #56 |  zoltan | 

    As long as the government is handing out pie, there will be people fighting over who gets how much pie

    And on a related note, George Bernard Shaw said:

    “A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”

  57. #57 |  On Disclosure | The Agitator | 

    […] So like quite a few other progressive organizations, Mother Jones doesn’t release the names of its donors, even as they criticize free market groups (often falsely) for the same thing. Put another way, the magazine reserves the right to protect the anonymity of the people who fund the magazine’s investigative journalism, which this week included exposing the identity of donors to political causes—who wished to remain anonymous. […]

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