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All this blatant hypocricy makes me despair about humankind, it's just like saying:

"Well, you know, it's politics... everything is instrumental to power seeking... ethics, science, philosophy, are only as good as they are useful to seize power. Nothing is true, fair or good by itself, it all depends on political interest. Moral principles are just one of the many rhetorical devices by which power relations are justified and made acceptable to the wider public. Idealists are just useful idiots (Lenin's patent). Ethics is superstructural and derives from false consciousness."

No one would defend his own interests with these arguments: most just practice the same, while preaching from the moral high ground. When cynicism will be instrumental to power, they will use the previous language. But the demand for being conned is so high that hypocrital preaching will always be the key in political communication.

You are absolutely right! There is a big difference between taking principled-free market positions and advocating a particular policy that has particular benefits to the Funders.
Btw, my own defense of Koch and academic freedom is here:

Leftist shills also seem to do the same for unions and other special interest groups without being properly branded as hypocrites.

They're doing it "for the greater good," of course!

Part of the reason why those on the "left" have such a "knee-jerk" reaction in assuming that anyone who supports a free market position is doing so as either a "useful idiot" or a "paid dupe" for business interests is that they implicitly presume the Marxian premise that "ideology" is part of the "superstructure" that maintains the property relationships of the society.

Every "right thinking" person "knows" (that is, any person who had broken out of the "false consciousness" of capitalist propaganda) that business makes profits by cheating ("exploiting") workers. That unregulated markets "necessarily" leads to monopoly and harm to the consumers of the society (the Marxian "law" of the concentration of capital). That the self-interested profit motive fosters anti-social behavior at the expense of the "true" interests of the society as a whole. That unrestrained global markets result in unfair wages and work conditions for the world's poor in the search for profits no longer obtainable to the same extent in the home country (the Marxian theory of imperialism).

Now since any "right thinking" person knows this -- anyone who cares about "social justice," about "human rights over property rights," -- then, clearly, the only reason why anyone would defend a system of injustice, unfairness, and "greed," would be if they are ignorant (and need of "consciousness raising" re-education) or if they are the paid mouthpieces for those who wish to benefit themselves at the expense of the great majority of the ordinary "working people" of society.

This thinking is so imbedded and taken for granted by those on the "left" that the notion that someone might advocate free markets and limited government (classical) liberalism precisely because such a proponent is concerned with the freedom and prosperity of his fellow men never enters their mind. There must be hidden agendas and nefarious motives at work.

In the closing chapter of Ludwig von Mises' "Liberalism," he asks, for whom does the (classical) liberal speak? And Mises declares -- for every one and the society as a whole. It is the only political and economic philosophy that advocates equal liberty for all, with favors and privileges for none.

Such impartiality seems unintelligible to those on the "left," and too often makes dispassionate and open discussion with them so difficult.

Richard Ebeling

I like Mr. Ebeling's comment but I wouldn't presume the typical leftist is employing Marxian concepts about the "superstructure" of society. I think their basic attitude is that conservatives/libertarians are simply malcontents and useful idiots. What puzzles me though is how leftist scholars could simply chalk up scholarly essays/works from libertarians as nothing more than elaborate window dressing for the capitalist class. Surely they must recognize that, however allegedly misguided libertarian intellectuals are, they are bright men/women attempting to put forth logical arguments. This would be a far cry from "useful idiot."

Whether you want so ascribe it to explicit underlying Marxist thought or not, what Richard said is fundamentally true -- it is true of all post-liberal anti-liberal thought (to be distinguished from pre-liberal anti-liberal thought, most typically understood as "conservative" in the way Hayek used the term). If you don't understand what Richard is saying, you won't understand why talking with such anti-liberal people is like bashing your head against a stone wall. Why argue with such people, then? To prevent them from winning over anybody else. One has to fight anti-liberals to win over those who don't know what they think, or why.

"Anyone on the left who... has lost any right to..."

Very libertarian argument.

Richard is on to something. Whether consciously or not, many on the left have borrowed Marxist thought-processes and tactics. Smearing one's opponent is an old Leninist tactic and widely amployed on the left.

I find some liberal friends assume anyone who disagrees with them is "stupid." Not "wrong," or has different values, but "stupid."

Additionally, many on the left cannot discern the complexity and diversity of thought on the right. A Cuban emigre friend taught me that, and that the left is more homogenous intellectually than the right.

On the other hand, I have a left/liberal friend with whom I've many intelligent conversations on a variety of political and economic issues. He gets the sublties. We've even made common cause a time or two.

What happened to your "moral equivalance" stance, Steve?

It seems like you are suggesting that classical liberals are more principled than leftists?


Ebeling is on the right track. The "genetic fallacy" linked to ethical & cognitive dismissal is built into the leftist mind set.

And it goes well, well beyond crude 19th century Marxism -- e.g. see the work of the Western Marxist, the Frankfurt School, the Post Modernists & mainstream leftist cultural critique.

When I said that "lefts" today implicitly think in terms of these Marxist ideas, I did mean implicitly.

I do not assume that very many of them know the basis or origin of this part of the conceptual framework in which they tacitly think.

It is simply the mind-set that they have absorbed from their own education, social interactions, and literature they read. It is simply the "spirit of the times" in the intellectual world within which they live, think, and work.

Richard Ebeling

I think a lot of this is just a pervasive human tendency to view things tribally or with suspicion, rather than through good reasoning.

I've seen lots of libertarians assume that if you disagree with them you are stupid or - even more common - that you don't think logically (because in the view of many libertarians their conclusions follow effortlessly from a few incontrovertible claims - so if you don't agree you're just not a critical thinker). I've had lots of libertarians dismiss my thoughts because of where I work, who I've been taught by (which oddly enough they always presume to know... I'm not sure any of them are at all familiar with the professors that have influenced me). I've had lots of libertarians dismiss my thoughts on the grounds that I am just trying to please politicians.

Everyone that is too lazy to think critically and engage arguments does this.

I've gotten it from the left too. The vice president of a prominent liberal think tank came up to me after a panel discussion where I made a comment about the positive impact of skilled immigrant on the economy, and he accused me of "trying to immiserate the nation".

This is just how lazy, mean people act. It has nothing to do with left, right, or libertarian. I've seen plenty of it on all sides.

One thing that concerns me a lot w.r.t. this stuff is self-publishing.

Koch and Soros will fund what Koch and Soros will fund - and they're going to fund people that think like them (although Soros - admirably - is casting a somewhat wider net with INET). If they fund whole institutions that will publish papers, evaluations, and reports, this is more of a concern for me. There is little critical review, in that case, from an outside audience. I would rather see Koch and Soros funded scholars publishing in peer reviewed venues and generalist venues. This doesn't mean that anyone that is supported by money from these guys is suspect, of course. It's just an extra layer of guarantee that Koch and Soros are funding excellent research because they want to fund excellent research - NOT that they are providing letterhead, a website, and a printer to people that they expect to say what they want them to say.

It's also an internal culture that you can't really measure or control.

We get money from the government and from private foundations to conduct research. Funders can be pushy. If you are not willing to push back and draw a line in the sand and say "that is not high quality research", then you shouldn't take money from those sorts of people. Thankfully I've worked with several more senior researchers who have set a good example of doing research to answer the questions the funders want answered, but not letting them influence how the research is done.

So Troy's point about "what to do" with people who talk like this is interesting.

I've traditionally followed Troy's solution - keep talking to them anyway. Explain why I'm not a "statist" why I'm not an enemy of liberty, why I am not a political shill, why I am doing good economics, and why I do care about doing economics well. It's important because I value (1.) good economic scholarship, (2.) finding the best approach to the substantial hardship that's going on right now, and (3.) creating a more free society. I have to confront people that have ideas that threaten those things.

Lately I haven't been so sure. There are enough good, solid, smart libertarians out there that DON'T instinctually treat me and my thoughts like crap that I'm becoming less and less inclined to talk with the ones that do.

Daniel, you are pretending there isn't deep cognitive difference here -- which is dishonest of you.

I'm not pretending anything Greg, and I'm also not denying that there are deep problems with how many on the left react to libertarians.

I'm certainly not being dishonest.

The disposition and discourse of Marxism may play a role in how this expresses itself, but I guarantee you it's not a problem restricted to any particular quarter of the species. My personal experience is most extensive with libertarians, but I'm not suggesting they have any distinction on these issues.

How they "react" _isn't_the issue. How they deal with rival conceptions & how they conceive the growth of knowledge, and how they think about the role of principle in public life is the issue.

Classical liberals & leftists conceive these things in fundamentally different ways.

You either don't get this or you are pretending not to get it.

It's one or the other, and I my guess was that you are to smart not to get it.

Daniel writes.

"I'm also not denying that there are deep problems with how many on the left react to libertarians."

Richard was talking about the way leftists respond the way they respond, and I think he's mostly right. There are of course those who make poor arguments on all sides, and it is of course colored by the way they understand the world. Libertarians who make bad arguments do so from the very premises that make them libertarians, conservatives do so from the premises that make them conservatives, etc. Sometimes a bad argument comes from frustration that one's opponent just cannot or will not see what is so obvious to the person making the argument. I have sometimes been pushed into making bad arguments when every single piece of evidence has bounced off my opponent like b-b's off an M1-A1. Of course, one is then remembered for the one bad argument and not the 100 good arguments you made that could not or would not penetrate. So why argue with those impenetrable to facts and reason? -- either to sharpen one's teeth, or to persuade others, if there is an audience. And avoid the bad arguments, no matter how frustrated one gets.

Greg -
If you like your "deal with" rather than my "react to" that's fine - I'm happy to accept your characterization of the question. My point still stands. The fact that you are telling me I'm either ignorant or dishonest (and that you lean towards dishonest) is an illustration of my point.

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