A couple days ago, The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait pointed to an article by my Reason colleague Ron Bailey on carbon rationing, noted that Bailey had also edited a 2002 book that included an essay questioning global warming, then rather unsubtly suggested that Ron was bought and paid for.
What Chait failed to note is that Bailey has since changed his mind about global warming, and in a very public way. Now, you could argue that Bailey should have seen the light on global warming much earlier than 2006. You might also disagree with his opinions about how to best address global warming now. But you really can’t imply to your readers that Bailey’s global warming denialism is evidence that Bailey and Reason are merely serving their Koch paymasters when five years ago Bailey publicly repudiated the position you’re alleging he’s still getting paid to take. And yes, Bailey is still Reason’s science correspondent. He wasn’t fired for his apostasy. (Note: I don’t write about science or environmentalism, but from what I’ve read, I also believe that we’re experiencing climate change, and that man-made activity is likely responsible for at least a not-insignificant percentage of it.)
So yesterday, Chait again went after Bailey, this time mocking libertarians in general because one of our own, Bailey, once wrote an article that advocated an individual health insurance mandate. Bailey more than aptly responds to Chait here, and Bailey doesn’t really need me to defend him. But I’ll add a couple things, anyway. First, Chait weirdly suggests that this is some sort of libertarian hypocrisy, as if Bailey’s health care article were representative of all libertarian opinion, and that libertarians only now oppose the mandate we all once championed because, I guess, it’s being pushed by Obama.* Thing is, lots of libertarians disagreed with Bailey’s article at the time, including a good percentage of the Reason office.
Hell, someone not utterly blinkered by partisanship might even conclude that Bailey’s article and Reason‘s publication of it suggest that Reason is . . . open to heterodox ideas! Sometimes we even publish them! In fact, someone willing to see his political opponents in a generous light might even see all this as evidence that Reason‘s editorial decisions aren’t entirely dictated by morning memos sent over from Wichita, Kansas. A generous person might also conclude that all of this suggests Ron Bailey is the kind of guy who forms his opinions based on taking in a lot of information, then abiding by his own sense of reason, logic, and his own personal values—not by who signs his paycheck.
This brings me to my second point. Chait’s post yesterday amusingly (and apparently obliviously) undermines his post from Wednesday. That is, a mere two days after Chait put up a post implying that Bailey and Reason are bought-and-paid-for Koch shills, he puts up a post mocking Bailey and Reason for writing and publishing an article that advocates a policy the Kochs have spent millions of dollars trying to overturn. And he apparently doesn’t see the disconnect.
In related news, the latest Koch scandal (which Chait also touts) is that House Republican leaders have scrapped Nancy Pelosi’s composting plan for the House cafeteria and, instead, have awarded a contract to supply Styrofoam paper cups to a company run by . . . a Koch executive!
Well that does seem pretty outrageous. Except, wait. It’s a former Koch executive. Not only that, it’s a former Koch executive who left Koch to start a company that rivals a Koch line. (Koch owns Dixie Cup.) Oh, and House Republicans had nothing to do with who got the account. It was handled by a contractor that runs the House cafeteria.
Please note that I’m not commenting on the wisdom, or lack thereof, of scrapping Pelosi’s program. Nor am I necessarily advocating the use of Styrafoam cups. Nor am I suggesting that Republican (or Democratic) politicians don’t award government contracts for corrupt reasons. I am saying that you have to try really hard to make Koch a part of this story.
(*The accusation—which Chait doesn’t make, but others have—that we at Reason are just thinly-disguised Republicans is hard to square with the fact that no full-time staffer voted for McCain in 2008. Two (including Bailey) voted for Obama. The rest voted for Barr, or didn’t vote at all.)