Economics

Austan Powers

What we can learn from watching the libertarians-for-Obama Great Economist Hope get caught doing the White House's dirty work in trashing libertarians against Obama

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The basic story, in case you haven't heard: On August 27, in a background briefing with reporters in which he expected to be described as a "senior administration official" and not "Austan Goolsbee," the White House's soon-to-be-appointed chair of the Council of Economic Advisers said this:

So in this country, we have partnerships, S corps, we have LLCs—we have a series of entities that do not pay corporate income tax. Some of which are really giant firms. You know, Koch Industries, I think, is one, is a multibillion dollar business, and so that creates a narrower base because we got literally something like 50 percent of the business income in the U.S. is going to businesses that don't pay any corporate income tax.

Koch Industries, as you may recall, is the family business of Charles and David Koch, the two most influential donors to libertarian institutions in American history. The Kochs helped found the Cato Institute, the Mercatus Center, and the Institute for Humane Studies, among many other organizations, and have given money to the Reason Foundation over the years (David sits on our Board of Trustees). They were also instrumental in the initial development of the Libertarian Party, for which David ran as vice president in 1980, and have been big donors to more conservative and various nonpolitical causes as well. They are not being trashed for their libertarianism per se in the campaign season of 2010, but because (in the phrasing of the headline on Jane Mayer's influential August feature in The New Yorker), of their "covert operations" in "waging a war against Obama."

Goolsbee's comment drew enough attention from Koch lawyers and Republican senators that the Treasury Department's inspector general is looking into whether he or any other administration official dug improperly through the tax records of a private company. If he did then Goolsbee got at least one important fact wrong, since KI does indeed pay corporate taxes, according to reporting by multiple outlets. The White House's official reaction, in part:

No senior administration officials have any access to anyone's tax returns—individual or business. The administration official was discussing the section of the [President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board]'s tax report that argued we should look at the rising importance of pass through entities that do not pay corporate income tax.

This issue was raised repeatedly by outside experts that testified before the PERAB and Koch was cited to the PERAB as an example by outside commenters to the group. We assume it came up from publicly available information such as the Forbes magazine annual report listing Koch as one of the largest private companies in the nation or the fact that a high fraction of the largest companies within Koch Industries are listed on the Koch website as LLCs, LPs or other frequent pass-through entities. If this information is incorrect, we are happy to revise statements.

An "administration official" also told Politico:

The officials statement was not based on any review of tax filings, and we will not use this example in the future.

Well, they won't use Koch-related organizations as an example of corporate tax-dodging, maybe, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the administration and its surrogates will continue slamming the Kochs for laying off American workers ("The question for the Kochs is instead of spending money on secret campaigns to fill the government with candidates that will enact their special interest agenda, why aren't they spending that money on saving those American jobs?"), maybe being part of a shadowy foreign plot ("You don't know if it's a foreign-controlled corporation.[…]We've got to make sure that we don't have a corporate takeover of our democracy."), for "bankrolling" anti-mosque demonstrations and plotting a "billionaires' coup," and on and on. There is I think zero doubt that the administration began a coordinated PR campaign against the Kochs by early August at the least, and that Goolsbee was just (consciously or unconsciously) doing his part.

But wait, didn't Planet Libertarian have higher hopes for the jauntily named economist (who you can see in a 1999 Reason piece declaiming Internet taxes)? Why yes it did. In fact, the proximity of Goolsbee to Obama was frequently cited as a key reason why some self-identified libertarians were going to vote for the Democratic nominee in 2008. Here's a trip down memory lane:

Libertarians for Obama:

Obama's chief economic adviser—a friend from the University of Chicago, where they both taught—sounds an awful lot like a libertarian (though I don't know if he accepts the label).

David Friedman:

Perhaps I am too optimistic about Obama, but I do not think he is going to turn out to be an orthodox liberal. There is a group of intellectuals connected with the University of Chicago who have accepted a good deal of the Chicago school analysis but still want to think of themselves as leftists. They are, as I see it, trying to construct a new version of what "left" means. Examples would be Cass Sunstein and Austan [Goolsbee], both at Chicago, and Larry Lessig, who used to be there. […]

[Goolsbee], judging by webbed pieces of his I've read, is a pro-market economist who happens to be a Democrat, rather like Alfred Kahn, who gave us airline dereguation under Carter. He is also Obama's economic advisor. […]

Obama himself, while obviously constrained by the fact that he is trying to get nominated, has occasionally let things slip that suggest a more libertarian view than typical of liberal senators.

Daniel Koffler:

Obama's preference for reducing healthcare costs while preserving the freedom to choose whether or not to participate in the healthcare system, as against Clinton's (and Edwards's) insistence on mandating participation, is not a one-off discrepancy without broader implications. Rather, Obama's language of personal choice and incentive is a reflection of the ideas of his lead economic advisor, Austin Goolsbee, a behavioural economist at the University of Chicago, who agrees with the liberal consensus on the need to address concerns such as income inequality, disparate educational opportunities and, of course, disparate access to healthcare, but breaks sharply from liberal orthodoxy on both the causes of these social ills and the optimal strategy for ameliorating them.

Instead of recommending traditional welfare-state liberalism as a solvent for socioeconomic inequalities and dislocations, Goolsbee promotes programmes to essentially democratise the market, protecting and where possible expanding freedom of choice, while simultaneously creating rational, self-interested incentives for individuals to participate in solving collective problems. […]

Goolsbee and Obama's understanding of the free market as a useful means of promoting social justice, rather than an obstacle to it, contrasts most starkly with the rest of the Democratic field on issues of competition, free trade and financial liberalism. […]

If this approach needs a name, call it left-libertarianism.

Steve Chapman:

More important than what he advocates is what he doesn't. His chief economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee of the University of Chicago, told me that Obama thinks "we shouldn't have a blanket policy of bailing out everyone." In formulating remedies, Goolsbee says, "you have to think how not to reward bad behavior."

Megan McArdle:

Obama's sterling choice of highest-caliber economic advisors was one of my main reason[s] for supporting him[.]

I bring up these examples not to throw stones—I, too, was impressed enough with Obama's economic advisers and campaign language that I pegged fiscal restraint and honesty as the only "glimmer of possibility" for his presidency, then watched as results turned out to be just about the opposite—but rather as a cautionary tale for all of us, from every political stripe, though perhaps independents and libertarians most of all.

When a presidential candidate (or other politician) assiduously campaigns as a post-ideological, data-driven pragmatist—as both Obama and John McCain did, though the latter more so in 2000 than in 2008—and then surrounds himself with an ideologically diverse set of advisers, basing your support for the pol on your fondness for one of the many faces in his crowd is a recipe for disappointment and even (in the case of Koffler above) delusion. Just because Paul Volcker sits on PERAB doesn't mean that the group will focus more on the necessity of fiscal pruning than on the economic magick of weatherizing homes.

A president's ideological instincts and political necessities, an administration's bureaucratic self-propagation, a Congress' economic beliefs, the political climate of the country—all of these things matter so, so much more than the academic writings of the one apparatchik you identify with most. Hell, you could be appointed to a senior position on the president's various economic teams tomorrow, and it just wouldn't matter. The Great Man theory rarely applies to underlings, and when it does it usually means the subordinate has executive authority over at least one key department, not to mention support from above and below.

Should we be surprised that Austan Goolsbee has joined in the White House's campaign against the Kochs? Not at all. Outraged or disappointed, if you wanna be. But save some of that disappointment, if it applies, to yourself, for ever believing that smarts, elbow-rubbing, and surface integrity were enough for a single person to avoid or even overcome the awful, awful business of both politics and governance. This is as true in 2010 as it will be in 2012 and every thereafter.

Literally from his first day in office, Obama has been rejecting the "false choice" between "whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works." The results of such hollow post-ideological pragmatism have been as predictable as the president's political need, two years later, to identify as political enemy No. 1 the family that has donated the most money over the years to the limited-government cause. Left-libertarianism, it would appear, did not survive the collision with governing reality.

Matt Welch is Editor in Chief of Reason magazine.

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  1. But save some of that disappointment, if it applies, to yourself, for ever believing that smarts, elbow-rubbing, and surface integrity were enough for a single person to avoid or even overcome the awful, awful business of both politics and governance.

    Not that I had all that much faith in our masters to begin with, but the Obamasiah administration has taken my already fairly deep cyncism and distrust in guvmint and hit it with a big nitorous blast, not too unlike Lord Humungous’ car at the very end of the chase.

    1. I don’t think it’s fair to compare Humongous with Obama. I think Humongous was honest at least once in a while.

      1. If they’d just walked away, would Humongous have honored his word to let them go?

        1. I think he would have. As long as they found a rig that could haul that fat tank of gas.

          1. ***spoiler alert***

            The tanker was full of sand.

            1. Lord Humongous is not pleased!

              1. It’s Lord Humungus. Lord Humongous is the name of a pro wrestler.

                1. Was that the guy that wore the hockey goalie mask also in the ring? What foreign object?

                  1. Back in the days of WCW Turner Broadcasting’s standards and practices division deemed the correct term is “international object”. “Foreign” is a pejorative term.

                2. Sorry, I didn’t read the book.

                  1. Humungus turns out to be Max’s father.

                    1. That’s not true! That’s impossible!

                    2. A very common literary device.

                    3. And he’s Jewish.

                    4. Funny. He doesn’t look Druish.

                    5. How can you tell with the hockey mask?

                      I bet that under the mask he’s wearing a William Shatner mask.

                    6. During the apocalypse, men put masks over their masks.

    2. Old Mexican-
      “Libertarian” David Koch gave decidedly UNlibertarian (i.e. fascistic) Andrew Cuomo $50,000

      How about them apples?”

      Pro Libertate-

      “They donate a bunch to PBS, too,”

      Gabe-
      Don’t forget that they were giving money against Greyson when he still had a shot against Rand Paul too!…face it, the Kochs are gatekeeper libertarians, who can be counted on to support crony-mercantilist-capitalism…the warfare state and the Federal Reserve…other than that they are pretty good…but lets not lie about their statist qualities.

      1. Break out the purity tests! If they survive burning they are libertarian!

      2. Well to be fair, it’s not like Cuomo’s Opponent Mr. “I wanna use Emiment Domain to remove the Islamic Community Center that’s 2 blocks away from Ground Zero” Paladino is a libertarian himself. It’s a lesser of 2 evils choice.

        1. I think you mean “evil of the lessers”.

        2. This point could certainly be debated. Thru the institution of HVCC, Andrew Cuomo has done more to destroy the opportunity of a recovery in the housing market than all of Congress. He took the right to operate a small business away from thousands of individuals across the country, forcing them to work largely for his political allies.

          Paladino is certainly no model politician, but Cuomo is the very definition of corruption. Everytime I hear his name or see his face, that 3 Days Grace line rolls thru my head…”I, hate, everything about you.”

        3. I’m going with “lesser of two weasels”.

  2. It’s easy to decry the Obama administration for its statist economics but libertarians have no good choices. Should they now glom over to Republicans and Tea Partiers who espouse small government slogans while also supporting small minded racism and bigotry of all sorts, religious fundamentalism, and an overly agressive and expensive military and foreign policy. Government spending has grown apace under the GOP too. I agree that Obama’s economic policies suck but libertarianism involves advocacy of human rights and personal liberties–not just low taxes. On those issues the Democrats are far preferable to creepy Red State Fascist Republicans.

    1. I agree that Obama’s economic policies suck but libertarianism involves advocacy of human rights and personal liberties–not just low taxes.

      How is Obama doing on those issues again?

      I too thought McCain would be just as bad as Obama back in 11/2008.

      If I knew then what I know now I would have campaigned door to door for McCain until my toenails bled.

      1. Obama and the Democrats’ record of human rights and personal liberties is highly questionable.

        Obamacare involves an enormous government held database of your personal data on both physical and mental health held by that government bureaucratic bastion of human rights – the IRS.

        Their attempts to eviscerate the Second Amendment and remove your right to defend yourself as you deem appropriate are just as destructive of your freedom. So are his administration’s attacks on your freedom of conscience…

    2. Oh, look, the TEAM BLUE press to get libertarians on their side is beginning because they know they’re going to get killed in November. The fact that you can even say the above with a straight face would be insulting if it weren’t so laughable. I mean, really, how did you have the balls to write that?

      (this is in no way meant to imply that the GOP is any better–but gridlock is definitely the best we can hope for at this point)

      1. No kidding–we haven’t seen too many partisans from Team Red come in here and say, “Geez the Republicans are bad, but there’s no question the Democrats are worse!”

        Also, the fact that Austen Goolsbee– who wrote an op-ed in the NYT in 2007 begging Congress not to nerf the subprime market–is about to be on the Council of Economic Advisors just makes the Team Blue cheerleading more ridiculous.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/29/business/29scene.html

      2. I’ve been voting for gridlock since I was 18.

    3. On those issues the Democrats are far preferable to creepy Red State Fascist Republicans.

      Do you have anything to back up this assertion? I’ve seen nothing in practice that suggests Democrats on the whole are any better on human rights and personal liberties than Republicans. Sure they are more likely to support equal rights for gay and open boarders, but at the same time, they have passed a health care bill that mandates people must by health insurance. If that mandate is upheld, they have basically opened the door for government to regulate every decision you make. That’s a huge black eye to any claims that Democrats are for personal liberties.

      1. Sure they are more likely to support equal rights for gay and open boarders

        Link needed for the latter assertion — tell me again about the legislation opening the borders the Ds have passed?

        1. Oh, and here in Hawaii, with 90% Democrats in the legislature, they failed to pass a bill (HB444) giving civil union rights to gays and unmarried straight couples. Are you saying that if only they had 100% Democrats that would put them over the top?

        2. Or the ending of DADT? Or allowing gay marriage? The gays are pissed as hell at our affirmative action president.

        3. And if open borders are your deciding issue, why exactly would that tilt you towards Obama over McCain, anyway?

          1. If open borders are your deciding issue, why would you consider yourself a libertarian in the first place? In an ideal world, sure, the free movement of people must be allowed; but in this one, what happens to what remains of libertarianism in America if our borders are opened?
            I don’t understand so-called libertarians who would react with outrage, horror, and a visceral disgust if somebody announced a plan to increase the number of illiterate Catholic+Evangelical Christian voters by tens of millions, but thinks getting tens of millions of Mexicans into the country is a great idea. “Dude, I can’t oppose immigration just because they share relevant demographic characteristics with people I despise, that would be racist!”
            If there’s evidence that immigrants are even as favorably disposed to libertarian ideas as our current population, I’m willing to change my mind. Is there?

            1. So let me get this straight – you approve the use of government power to keep people from entering our country primarily because you think those immigrants might not agree with you politically? That’s not very libertarian.

              Here’s a great discussion of the economics of immigration: http://www.econtalk.org/archiv…..immig.html

              1. If i think they’ll vote for non libertarian shit, its not unlibertarian. Democracy is a means to an end. Liberty is the end I seek.

                1. They almost always vote for non-libertarian shit.

                  1. Yes, they’re almost all extremely socially conservative (but enamored of affirmative action) and far-left on economics. First we can abolish the welfare state and voting, then we can have open borders.

      2. Of course, that defends on your definition of “freedom.” What if a government mandated choice for 10 people resulted in opening up 3 choices for 90 people? Is that a restriction of freedom? Is freedom/liberty utilitarian?

        1. The words “mandated” and “choice” are contradictory.

        2. Basic flaw in utilitarian thinking.

          One cannot compare how much on person values A with how much another person values B.

    4. Baloney. Democrats are open about their embrace of racism and classism. They hate the white male openly. They would gladly punish the wealthier classes. And on the war, drugs, and civil liberties they have turned out to be as bad as the olifants.

      1. How dare you use the false-equivalency argument. Republicans are 100% evil, and the ONLY source of evil, for that matter.

        My party, OTOH, is pure and clean and trustworthy. I’d stake my beachfront property on it.

        1. Whoever you are, you are really hung up on my vacation home. Wealth envy durrrr!!

          1. How could anyone be envious of a van that’s stuck in the sandbar?

          2. That’s a fuckin’ laugh, Tony… a liberal, bitching about reverse wealth envy.

            Your side OWNS the wealth-envy card deck. Face facts.

            1. Yet the idiot spoofer is displaying it.

              1. Funny, when I read it, I see someone making fun of your dual personality – Side A, the one who boasts of his personal wealth, and Side B, the one who gripes about rich people and how they ought to be taxed for their sins.

                1. I try not to boast, unless necessary when someone tries to psychoanalyze me over the internet rather than address my argument.

                  Yes I think taxes for rich people should go up at least to Clinton-era levels. No, I don’t think they were being punished for their sins then and that’s not my motivation now.

                  Nothing is more two-faced than spending months bitching about deficits and then refusing to entertain the one big solution to them.

                  1. How is flushing more cash down the toilet a solution for deficits?

    5. If by “far preferable” you mean “largely indistinguishable from and just as destructive as,” then I agree with you completely.

      1. The problem is that the Democrats are, rhetoric aside, pretty much everything we hate in the Republicans plus a whole slate of more to hate. They are not and have not been visibly better on WoD, foreign policy, military interventionism, civil liberties, etc. And they are horrific on economics. The GOP is merely godawful on economics.

        If we’re killing our country, I’d prefer the slow path to the quick one. Gives us time to maybe come to our senses. To me, the slow path is gridlock.

        1. Yeah, but then we’ll have to listen to the incessant whining and wailing from liberals over the republicans, much more so than now. I’m not sure that’s a worthwhile trade-off.

          On the plus side, the anti-war protests may finally resume.

          1. Although I expected it, the lack of real opposition to the war, provided that the Democrats are in charge, is sickening. Libertarians still oppose it, and I don’t doubt we would feel the same way in power.

            1. Not to say that I agree with very many of the anti-war aims of the radical left, but the fact that they seem more interested in the politics of war than in the fact of it is the worst sort of hypocrisy.

              1. Rangers 2, Rays 0.

                1. Yeah, we decided to collapse after winning the AL East and having the best record in the AL. Not to mention previously beating Lee every time we faced him this year. It’s disappointing, but I’m still hoping they’ll make a series of it. Major mountain to climb to win it, though.

          2. Yeah, but then we’ll have to listen to the incessant whining and wailing from liberals…

            Buy earmuffs.


            OTOH, Team Red has a lot more of those “White House Prayer Breakfasts.”

            I am so glad that I know so many libertarian Americans and that when I visit the US, I meet so many sane, normal people.

            If I met the ones I read about, I would probably not visit again. (Though I once ran into Larouchies in Washinton National Airport many years back. For some reason, they thought I was a refugee from the tyranny of Queen Elizabeth II’s Canadian reign of terror.)

            1. Buy earmuffs.

              I’m going to stick with the compressed air horn option.

            2. OTOH, Team Red has a lot more of those “White House Prayer Breakfasts.”

              Policians praying? OH MY GOD!!!! WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!

          3. Eh, Republicans in control of Congress can’t start wars. Dem President/GOP Congress may be the best thing for libertarians, but it wasn’t on offer in 2008.

            1. Yes they can. By declaring them. While it’s an open question whether a president can veto a declaration of war, failure to at least nominally conduct the war could be an impeachable offense.

              1. History suggests this isn’t really much of a concern.

          4. There is no such thing as an anti-war protest, which I think we can all agree was proven by the election of President Jesus. It was always an anti-Bush movement to its very marrow.

    6. “far preferable to creepy Red State Fascist Republicans.”

      Are you sure about that? Progressive Democrats, the ones in power now, are not known for supporting individual liberties vis-a-vis the interests of the state.

    7. Man, the progressives must be so fucking desperate. Begging for crumbs of libertarian votes.

      Or have you finally recognized the thundering and overwelming force of our ideas (and 15 votes)?

      1. Don’t you know? Even though our numbers are few. we’re the cause of all suffering in the world (that isn’t caused by the Republicans).

        We’re like gods to have such raw power.

        1. The next time someone asks you if you’re a god, JW, you say yes!

          1. It would be more impressive if he were to smite them with a thunderbolt.

        2. It’s the magic monocles.
          And other superpowers.

          1. Why is that man wearing a cutaway? Does he work as a butler in his cover identity? You’d think evil geniuses could afford tailoring that differntiated them from the help.

        3. “Like” gods? Really, don’t you know how this works? Besides the obvious Ghostbusters lesson, Greek mythology makes it clear that if you’re going to have hubris, you’ve got to go all the way. Heracles had hubris like that and got half-promoted to full god status.

        4. Iggy sang it; we live it.

          1. Disc 1 in my car right now. I’m not sure if it’s the version Iggy produced or Bowie produced, I think it’s still the typical Bowie produced album.

        5. Yeah, apparently just my evil thoughts alone caused some guy’s trailer to burn down halfway across the country.

      2. To be fair, there aren’t more than 20 votes in winning big ‘L’ Libertarian endorsements, but winning the larger ‘people who hate people’ small-l wing is probably worth attempting. But not by making false assertions that insult my intelligence and expect me to have less short-term memory than the average memory unit tenant.

    8. The problem with your argument it it’s also easy to decry Obama for his continuation and in many cases expansion of Bush’s anti-civil liberties stances.

      At this point McCain would probably been better on civil liberties, not because of any ideological conviction on his behalf, but because liberals wouldn’t be rationalizing his overreach away.

      1. This may seem odd, but for some reason I can more easily picture McCain legalizing pot than Obama. I have no particular evidence to back that up, but this stupid notion that a lot of hippies are liberals, a lot of hippies like drugs, therefore liberals will change the law to stop throwing nonviolent drug offenders in jail, hasn’t panned out. Even with Obama’s “historic presidency” as a Kenyan-Irish-American, you don’t see any effort whatsoever to stop the immoral idiocy that lands disproportionate numbers of African-American men in prison for non-violent offenses.

        1. First he has to figure out what to do with a million unemployable ex-gangstas.

      2. At this point McCain would probably been better on civil liberties, not because of any ideological conviction on his behalf, but because liberals wouldn’t be rationalizing his overreach away.

        And McCain would have given in on some of those issues due to Democratic and media pressure.

    9. The operative word in your entire post is “creepy”. Oh, if only people like you would just for a moment free yourself from the emotive hysteria that is your personal prison and vote with your brains instead.

      1. Having lived in a Red and a Blue state, both recently, I can assure you that Blue State Fascists are creepier than Red State Fascists — and the Blue State Fascists have a lot of political power and success, while the Red State Fascists are relegated to the fringes.

        Compare the number of recently-enacted bans on trans fats, smoking, toilets that actually flush, etc., to the number of bans on, say, abortion or homosexuality…

        What are we at, 150 to 0, so far? More?

        I’m not much for fascism, but seriously, I have a hard time thinking of a Red State character as creepy as Bloomberg — and if there is one, he/she has not been successful whereas Bloomberg has.

        1. And the three states where people have tried to make it illegal to videotape a cop– Massachusetts, Illinois, and Maryland– are as Blue as they get.

          1. Yeah, I wonder why they want to keep us from monitoring the behavior of unionized government employees…

    10. I agree that Obama’s economic policies suck but libertarianism involves advocacy of human rights and personal liberties–not just low taxes. On those issues the Democrats are far preferable to creepy Red State Fascist Republicans.

      Yeah, good thing we don’t have those creepy Rs ordering assassinations of American citizens, keeping Gitmo open, wiretapping, not opposing First Amendment rights for corporate speech, etc.

      Have you been in a cave for the last year and a half, or just a liberal echo chamber?

    11. HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    12. How can someone support “an overly agressive and expensive military and foreign policy” and still be in favor os small government. It seems to me that if you find it accactpable to have millitay bases anywhere other then on American soil, or if they are actvly being used in a war, they your not really in favor of small government.

    13. Best concern troll ever.

    14. “while also supporting small minded racism and bigotry of all sorts, religious fundamentalism”

      As a libertarian, you really ought to know better than to believe the Dem/MSM Narrative.

      Racism? Bigotry? Religious fundamentalism? Nope- all the old-left’s bogeyman “rightwing” caricatures bundled up and laughably misapplied.

    15. I agree that Obama’s economic policies suck but libertarianism involves advocacy of human rights and personal liberties–not just low taxes.

      Well, let’s just think through how I’m going to get treated, aside from “just economics”:

      * Is it the Democrats or Republicans who tell me I can’t light up a cigarette in a bar (or even a public park)?
      * Is it Democrats or Republicans pushing through campus speech codes?
      * If I want to run down to Mickey D’s and pick myself up a Big Mac or a Jewish bakery that uses margarine (trans fats) in their recipes, is it Democrats or Republicans who are going to give me the big “No, no, no”?
      * If I want to buy a gun to protect myself, who’s going to have a problem with it, Democrats or Republicans?
      * Who is it telling me I’m going to get punished by the government if I don’t sort through my garbage, Democrats or Republicans?

      Sorry, Mr. Aldridge, but the Democrats aren’t singing a better song on the personal liberties front. Just a different song.

      1. “Is it the Democrats or Republicans who tell me I can’t light up a cigarette in a bar (or even a public park)?”

        I think the biggest part of what makes (or used to make) liberals support drug legalization is the association of drug use with the 60s and their nostalgia for that era. That’s also a major factor in conservative resistance to the idea — sort of an anti-nostalgia. Liberals want drugs to be legal because the hippies used them, and conservatives want them to stay illegal because… the hippies used them. If drugs were legal and *hadn’t* been popular with 60s liberals, Democrats would be demanding congressional hearings into Big Marijuana.

        Then again, if drugs were legal but other liberal policies continued to advance, it would be perfectly fine to smoke yourself some pot, but you better not have a Big Mac attack afterwards. And there better not be any high-fructose corn syrup in that hashish brownie mix!

    16. The way to fight it is not through worrying about who you are voting for in your national or state elections. Sure vote if you like, but be aware it is a miniscule and almost worthless exercise of your personal power.

      Instead get involved in your social community, your business community, building up civil society as a decentralized alternative to the centralization of power. Influence and nurture all those non-governmental aspects of society.

      And, sure, get involved in your local non-partisan politics. It’s not completely rigged and you can have some influence.

    17. Let’s go down that list of yours.

      Racism: Can you point to some?

      Bigotry: Meaning what, exactly? (You already claimed we’re racists, so I presume you mean some other kind of bigotry). If you mean gays, there was a gay group handing out fliers at the April 15th event that I attended.

      Religious fundamentalism: If there were any while I was there, they were polite enough not to harass the aforementioned gays. Besides which, whether or not one is religious has nothing to do per se with whether one is a libertarian.

      Military/foreign policy: there was plenty of Rand Paul anti-war signage/t-shirtage at the event I attended, and one of the speakers went on at length on the subject. In fact, they were the only subgroup giving off a “if you don’t agree with us you don’t belong here” vibe. The interaction between the gay-flier hander-outers and the rest of the attendees (who I expect contained a decent chunk of Christians, just going by statistics) was much more polite than I would probably have had if I’d mentioned to any of the anti-war folks that not all libertarians agree with them.

      When it comes to rights, conservatives tend to do far better than liberals in a meta-rights sense: the freedoms conservatives champion tend to be much more useful in defending or expanding freedom overall. Consider the “Fairness Doctrine” vs. legalizing marijuana. You can promote the right to smoke marijuana using political speech. You can’t promote freedom of political speech by smoking pot. Heck, you can’t even promote your right to smoke pot by smoking pot. Therefore, the candidate who opposes reinstating the Fairness Doctrine is better than one who supports marijuana legalization. Go down the list of freedoms that conservatives defend versus those that liberals defend. On aggregate, conservatives win handily in my opinion.

      Or as P.J. O’Rourke more-colorfully put it: “Wealth is, for most people, the only honest and likely path to liberty. With money comes power over the world. Men are freed from drudgery, women from exploitation. Businesses can be started, homes built, communities formed, religions practiced, educations pursued. But liberals aren’t very interested in such real and material freedoms. They have a more innocent — not to say toddler-like — idea of freedom. Liberals want the freedom to put anything into their mouths, to say bad words and to expose their private parts in art museums.”

  3. Having read Machinery of Freedom, I’m not surprised at David Friedman’s powers of self-delusion.

    1. Perhaps, having read it, now you could try understanding it?

    2. I wish I had read it so I could tell you to go fuck yourself.

  4. It was all just a bit of self-delusion. The senator with the most liberal voting record is really a libertarian at heart. Seriously?

    Palin was the most libertarian friendly candidate. But…

    Well, at least Goolsbee probably believes in evolution. And that’s what’s really important.

    1. Palin was the most libertarian friendly candidate.

      What about the Libertarian Party candidate, Bob Barr?

      1. Some of us have realized, painfully at times, that the LP is consistently a non-starter, to say nothing of a non-finisher. An until-recently drug warrior wasn’t going to improve on that track record.

        Maybe the LP has a future, but to be honest, if the LP is pretty much invisible at THIS point in American history, it’s done for, finis, kaput.

        1. Voting for Republicans isn’t going to help the Libertarians. And it’s not going to help the libertarians, either.

          1. Gridlock is our best tactical move as of this moment, and the LP has less than zero chance of doing a thing in 2010.

            Grow up, people. This really isn’t a game, or a joke.

            1. Don’t give up yet! Here in Ohio, the LP finally got the courts to agree that it’s f’d up to not have party affiliations listed with ALL candidates on the ballot. Next, the debates. Then, the White House! (Dean scream here)!

            2. No. You want liberals. Liberals everywhere. Liberals from top to bottom. Only once these fools have completely destroyed the federal government, and fully discredited their own philosophy, can we finally have real change. Things need to get more fucked up before people will wake up. Anyway that’s how I’m looking at it this week.

          2. Voting for the Libertarians doesn’t seem to do them much good, either. But at least Barr was sane, compared to what’s-his-name from 2004.

    2. Palin was the closest thing to a libertarian, considering her voting record. Obama was the closest thing to a statist-Marxist.

      But Obama had an image that appealed more to the educated urban set — okay, a LOT more — and they went with the image.

      E.g., Megan McCardle is a smart woman, but seriously, an Obama endorsement? I can see her objection to McCain, as I shared it (CFR at the top of the list of objections), but actively supporting Obama was downright delusional, for a very smart and otherwise rational person.

      1. (CFR at the top of the list of objections)

        Because it’s always best to concentrate your objections on something that is both already passed, supported (however dumbly) by a strong majority of the American people, and supported by the opposing candidates strongly.

        I can understand hating a sponsor more than just a supporter before the bill passes. I can understand voting against McCain because of fear of more war, even though I thought that those concerns were overblown. (Megan McArdle cited war with Iran as a motivator for her vote.) I can see voting for a more pure third party candidate that you agree on on most issues.

        But once you make the decision to accept that your views are minority enough that you have to compromise on the major party candidate, I just can’t see making already-passed CFR the cornerstone of it. (Primaries are different, sure.)

        1. I actually did hold my nose and vote for McCain as the “not-Obama”, because I saw what Obama was and is. And the two years since have proven my assessment right.

          The point about CFR was that, when one had to choose between two candidates based on your best assessment of their views on individual liberty, McCain was a terrible choice to have to make. It wasn’t a cornerstone of McCain’s platform; rather it was an indication of just how much of a closet fascist he really is. It was hardly the only such indication, either.

          However, again, the belief that Obama was a better choice was still nothing short of delusional.

        2. For me, CFR was the top reason not to vote for McCain because it showed his true colors, and demonstrated he had horrific judgment. Not qualities I want in the White House. Given Obama’s hard-leftiness and absolute lack of experience, I defaulted to Barr, who as a wise man said “stands closest to the ideals I support”.

    3. “Palin was the most libertarian friendly candidate” candidate for what?

      1. “Dancing with the Stars”

        1. Nah, Penn Jillette wins that title.

  5. If the Koch brothers are using an S-corp structure, that almost certainly is increasing the government’s current net tax receipts. The current corporation tax table results in lower total taxes than either brother would pay on the passthrough income on their individual return.

    Using the passthrough structure avoids double taxation of dividends, but since the Koch’s don’t exactly need the cash income, they could just not pay any dividends if they had a C-corp and leave the post-tax money in there indefinitely.

    1. True, but the bottom line is that some day someone would take dividends, and double taxation would be higher than passing the income through to the individuals at the marginal rate. So it would be more like a really long tax deferral as retained earnings build up.

      The funny shit to me is: with the number of lawyers involved in politics, how many members of the administration are also partners in a partnership? Shareholders of an S-Corp? Are they really trying to imply that privately held businesses organized as anything but a C-corp is some kind of underhanded behavior? I can’t even remember the last time I advised someone to form a C-corp, other than a client that expects to go public shortly after starting their company.

      1. The fact that avoidance of taxation is demonized is the despicable part to me.

        I don’t give a shit if it’s via “legal” methods or not, the avoidance of excessive* taxation is not immoral.

        And I define “execessive” as anything more than the bare minimum needed for defense and basic infrastructure. (FWIW, by definition, this also excludes payroll taxes.)

        1. The fact that avoidance of taxation is demonized is the despicable part to me.

          Look fella, it’s patriotic to pay taxes, unless you park your yacht listing in another state’s waters. That’s even more patriotic.

        2. Tax avoidance is by its definition legal.

      2. Except to the extent the income passes on tax-free, e.g. to their heirs (should they be struck by lightning in the next two months, anyway).

  6. Aldridge: Go fuck yourself.

  7. Koch Industries, I think, is one, is a multibillion dollar business, and so that creates a narrower base because we got literally something like 50 percent of the business income in the U.S. is going to businesses that don’t pay any corporate income tax.

    If they are pass-through entities, that only means that their owners are liable for taxes. So saying that this results in some sort of hit on the tax base is a flat-out lie.

    Speaking of lies:

    We assume it came up from publicly available information such as the Forbes magazine annual report listing Koch as one of the largest private companies in the nation or the fact that a high fraction of the largest companies within Koch Industries are listed on the Koch website as LLCs, LPs or other frequent pass-through entities.

    They cited a specific number (50%) that no way, no how came from the sources they claim they used.

    1. The 50% was about companies set up as specific entities*, not about Koch Industries specifically.

      * Which is public information and probably came from a different poorly sourced Forbes article.

  8. Koch Industries doesn’t have to file annual reports?

    1. Nope, they’re privately held.

    2. The joys of not going public.

  9. Caption Contest!

    “And I promise that my plan will cure baldness so we don’t have to see combovers like on this white boy to my left.”

    1. Darn! I had the under on first proposed alt-text at 33 minutes. You were six minutes too late. 🙁

  10. Spoken like a true tentacle of the Kochtopus! Matt, baby, I think you just earned yourself a raise! I think there’s zero doubt that you are, consciously or unconsciously, part of the Koch machine!

    1. And he’s barbaric, too. I saw it on C-SPAN.

    2. I tried to get a drink out of a Koch machine once, but it refused to take my worthless fiat money and told me to come back when I had some gold.

    3. sarcasm ? or not? not really sure

      1. (intended for Vanneman)

      2. Dan T. could teach Vanneman a thing or two about sarcasm.

        1. Maybe he should set up a website or something.

    4. Hey Vaggeman, shouldn’t you be at home writing Alice in Wonderland or something?

  11. “Austan Goolsbee”

    Nothing we can do to him will be as bad as going through life with this as your name.

    1. It could be worse. He could be named Steve Smith, or heaven forbid, Alan Vanneman.

      1. + 1 unoriginal idea.

    2. It’s like Ayn Rand came up with a name for one of her villains, and then said “no, that’s just stupid” and threw it out.

      1. i lol’ed out loud

        1. ditto. Strong work, BP!

          1. Thanks, guys. The new pills the docs got me on are great.

            1. What are they, so we can have some?

              1. I’ll take the doctor’s name and phone #. I got the wrong doctor! You know my doctor, Dr. Vinnie Boombotz!

  12. Hey, a Koch pipeline cuts across my south forty. Do I now need to be on the alert for black helicopters ferrying in saboteurs as part of a statist plot to cripple the libertarian Koch enterprise?

  13. The 50% was about companies set up as specific entities*, not about Koch Industries specifically.

    I disagree. I think that sentence was about Koch Industries. Perhaps because Koch Industries is the subject of the sentence.

  14. Uh…

    “Libertarian” David Koch gave decidedly UNlibertarian (i.e. fascistic) Andrew Cuomo $50,000

    http://www.nydailynews.com/gos….._camp.html

    How about them apples?

    1. They donate a bunch to PBS, too, I believe.

      I know the right does its own share of demonizing, but the left has gotten ridiculous lately. Criticism of Obama is racism. Contributing to anything other than leftwing causes is fascism. Etc.

      Glad I’m a libertarian.

      1. Contributing to anything other than leftwing causes is fascism.

        It’s more subtle than that. Contributing to anything other than leftwing causes means you support fascists.

        So yeah, the cause itself might be OK, but since those fascist Koch assholes also support it, there must be something fishy going on.

      2. If my memory serves me right, David Koch (or Koch Industries) is listed as a sponsor for the Jim Leuher News Hour on PBS.

        1. I think they generally donate to PBS. It was probably after NOVA that I saw the commercial.

    2. I suspect that’s a “leave-me-alone” donation, rather than one driven by ideological commitment.

      When the Albany legislature decides they need to have an extra $2 tax on gasoline, Koch is going to want to be able to talk to Cuomo. (Assuming he’s the governor then). He’s paying for the access ahead of time.

    3. Sometimes it’s easier to payoff the local gangsters to keep your business running.

      1. Some people only get campaign donations because it’s illegal to shoot them.

      2. That’s funny because it’s 100% true. That’s exactly what’s going on, except that when the government does it it’s legal.

  15. I’m sure it’s been mentioned here before, but I’d like to cast my vote for Austen Goolsbee in the Best Ayn Rand Character Names Ayn Rand Didn’t Write contest.

    1. Newt Gingrich.

      Mike Huckabee.

      Come on! Those are totally stupid sounding names.

      And on the Team Blue side, there is always “Krugman” – that name is perfect for a thug.

      1. If you were eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election, would you vote for Newt Gingrich if his full name were Newcular Titties Gingrich?

        1. It would have to be Newt Australopithices Gigantosaurus to induce me to vote for him.

          1. Good thing you’re not a citizen then, because we’re pushing for him to change his name from Newton to Newcular Titties.

        2. Fuck yeah!

        3. “In a startling development, President Titties repealed government funded mammograms.”

          Yes, yes I would.

          1. What kind of titties are we talking about?
            Saggy, old man bitch titties? Or straight up silicone injected, full rounded DDD action?

            Personally, I can’t take a politician with bitch tits seriously.

  16. So, um, is there any proof that anybody improperly or illegally looked at Koch Industries’ tax records?

    1. We’ll get back to you on that.

  17. Anyone else stumble reading the word kochtopus since it’s prounounced like coke?

    1. Not anymore it isn’t.

      1. The way I say it makes it sound like an Anime title.

  18. You know, Koch Industries, I think, is one, is a multibillion dollar business, and so that creates a narrower base because we got literally something like 50 percent of the business income in the U.S. is going to businesses that don’t pay any corporate income tax.

    Koch Industries is an example of a type of businesses that half in that type don’t pay income tax. Nothing in there says that Koch was specifically in that half.

    1. This was meant to be in response to RC Dean’s comment above.

    2. You know, Barack Obama, I think, is one, is of Nigerian descent, and so that creates a narrower Christian population because we got literally something like 50% of Nigerian-Americans that are Muslim.

      1. I didn’t say the comment made any sense. 😛

      2. And uh, the Iraq, and everywhere, like such as.

  19. Then there are the types of businesses that are flush with cash, but not “profits”, so they pay no corporate income taxes, that give token make-work jobs to new Senators’ wives for $300K…

    1. FLAG: racist post

  20. It’s funny to think that all of this started with a sub-par hatchet job on the Kochs by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker. I doubt that I’d agree with the Kochs on everything, but I know this: you can trace a direct line from the Center for American Progress to Mayer’s article to Goolsbee’s statement and the President’s repeated comments about AFP. Heck, Mayer cribbed large parts of her article from a CAP blogger, and CAP’s director was head of Obama’s transition team. You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to see the coordinated campaign here. Or is it just me?

    1. No, there’s certainly a “talking points” style thing against the Kochs on the left recently. Of course, the right is the masters of this sort of pattern.

    2. No, it’s not just you.

      But you need to get more consistent yardage. You’re fucking killing me in fantasy football.

      1. No crap, worst pick for me since Larry Johnson a few years back..

    3. The CAP is the outfit that got Obama elected. And the people behind the CAP are Bill and Hillary Clinton.

      1. This statement does not make sense.

  21. No senior administration officials have any access to anyone’s tax returns?individual or business.

    Pure unmitigated bullshit.

    1. Anyone checked the Clintons’ closet lately?

    2. Screw the Carter comparisons.

      I’m now thinking Richard Milhouse Obama.

      1. Who would be the G. Gordon Liddy? Valerie Jarrett? I wonder if she is planning on kidnapping some libertarians and dropping them off in Mexico.

        1. I could totally use a vacation.

        2. Rahm.

        3. Jarret doesn’t have near the balls of Liddy.

          It’d have to Rahmbo.

          1. The ballerina has balls? Ok.

    3. And social security numbers were not to be used for identification.

      That is until it became an easy form of identification.

  22. “I bring up these examples not to throw stones?I, too, was impressed enough with Obama’s economic advisers and campaign language that I pegged fiscal restraint and honesty as the only “glimmer of possibility” for his presidency, then watched as results turned out to be just about the opposite?but rather as a cautionary tale for all of us, from every political stripe, though perhaps independents and libertarians most of all.”

    I’m sorry?!! There was all kinds of evidence out there that Obama was exactly who he is from his books to his church to his ties with far left extremists who are Orwellian Marxists. I can send you a whole laundry list of articles from Investor’s Business Daily, the Wall Street Journal and a number of other credible sources that were published long before the election and outlined in detail his background.

    1. I remember it was like, for a few months there, all the free-market libertarians in the commentariat decided to live up to our worst negative stereotype, and just spend their time doing bong hits.

    2. Including the fact that his principal economic advisor was the hyperventilating hyperlefty Paul Krugman

    3. What has Obama done that can be classified as “far-left”? At least pursuant to that term’s common contemporary meaning, I don’t agree.

      1. No one in this thread has said he has done anything that was “far-left”. I made a reference to his ties to “far-left” extremists.

        “his ties with far left extremists who are Orwellian Marxists”

        Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn qualify as “far-left”. Planting bombs and advocating re-education camps that may require exterminating millions to implement a Marxist style state, qualifies as “far-left”.

  23. Koch Industries is an example of a type of businesses that half in that type don’t pay income tax. Nothing in there says that Koch was specifically in that half.

    The sentence is certainly garbled enough to support that interpretation.

    If the point of the sentence is that there are lots of pass-through entities, though, why single out Koch by name?

    And, still, the existence of pass-through entities doesn’t narrow the tax base by one nickel. The base is unchange – the economic activity subject to tax is exactly the same, only the person liable for the tax is different. Which may mean a different rate is paid, but the tax base and the tax rate are two completely different things.

    So the overall point is still a lie.

    And I’ve got $20 bucks that says somebody pulled the Koch’s tax returns before that little smear was put out.

    1. I believe they are alluding to the “double taxation” that a normal C Corp provides to the government, i.e., the payment of corporate taxes and then the payment of dividend taxes (or capital gains, assuming no dividends) by individual stockholders.

      Also, the existence of LLC’s allow the pass-through of income, but if the LLC is owned by a C Corp, the parent C Corp still pays a corporate tax on the income from the LLC.

  24. I, too, was impressed enough with Obama’s economic advisers and campaign language that I pegged fiscal restraint and honesty as the only “glimmer of possibility” for his presidency,

    Accepting that you have problem is the first step to recovery.

    The interesting question is, why would anyone have believed that there was even a glimmer of possibility that the Obama administration would show any fiscal restraint and honesty?

    1. Good point. It seems to me all the libertarianish enthusiasm for Obama was because he once received a salary from the University of Chicago and he wasn’t that slimy warmonger speech-stifling McCain.

      Even people on the libertarian team who liked Obama personally (Richard Epstein) said he was a statist at heart. Still, he wasn’t McCain …

      Any other reasons I missed?

      1. Is U.Chicago salary was from the law school not the econ school. Which is night and day on that campus.

  25. Ha! A Harry Reid election ad comes up on all my Reason pages today.

    1. That’s nothing to laugh about.

      BTW, it will be great seeing Nancy Pelosi relegated to obscurity.

  26. Why should the Koch boys, who are public figures, be immune from criticism or scrutiny of their business practices?

    1. If that’s the case why aren’t they all over GE, GM, Chrysler, Exxon…

      It’s a long long list.

  27. I’m kind of excited by all this. I get to be apart of another group of evil people trying to rule the world or do evil deeds. This may push me into monocle and top hat territory.

    1. You may now officially change your name to Uncle Pennybags.

  28. If the point of the sentence is that there are lots of pass-through entities, though, why single out Koch by name?

    The enthusiastic TEAM BLUE! voter’s ideology, such as it is, consists entirely of a list of hated entities?a demonology: Palin, Wal-Mart, Cheney, NASCAR, neocons, white trash, glibertarians, etc. Big BLUE! decided that “Koch” belongs on that list, so its meme-setters all went “Koch” at the same time. That’s all.

    The mangled syntax of the Gool?who’s usually a pretty fluent speaker?is an artifact of obligation, I think. He’d been ordered to squeeze a “Koch” in there, however awkwardly, and knowing that doing it would prove him?to himself?to be a pathetic tool whose life and self have no extra-tool-ular value, his grammar got rickety. Freud, yo.

    (This is all probably partly our fault, for throwing out so many sarcastic “Kochtopus”es in mixed company. Really.)

    1. Give me a break, the Republican Party is driven by the same “us vs. them” rhetoric – if anything more so than the Dems.

  29. As the not-so-wise Dennis Green once said, “Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were. And we let ’em off the hook.”

    I’m afraid we, as a nation, have crowned this admin and we will let them off the hook when it comes time to call them on their bullshit in 2 years.

    1. best press conference ever!

    2. I and a charming lady friend had the pleasure of sitting with Denny Green and his lovely wife at a B.B. King concert at Glam Slam (Prince’s old night club) in about 1996. Great people, great couple.

      1. Denny Green’s Rhythm ‘n Wrap-up…

  30. hmm said,

    If that’s the case why aren’t they all over GE, GM, Chrysler, Exxon…

    Well they are all over GE, GM and Chrysler.

    If by all over you mean pouring massive amounts of taxpayer money all over their pet corporations.

  31. I’ll vote for you right now, if you promise me you’ll never die!

  32. So true. He did not turn out to be an orthodox liberal. He turned out to be a communist. Community organizer? Black liberation theology? Share the wealth?

    Puhleeeeeeeeeze.

    Any one who didn’t see this guy coming wanted to be rolled.

  33. “What we can learn from watching the libertarians-for-Obama Great Economist Hope get caught doing the White House’s dirty work in trashing libertarians against Obama”

    I’m not re-reading that again. Bad! Bad!

  34. Didn’t know Austan Powers was “the libertarians-for-Obama Great Economist Hope”.

    Only thing I learned reading this piece.

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