I am awed by the way that Blue and Red Team members fall into lockstep whenever a new political or ideological demon has been identified by their "intellectual" elites. For example, Team Blue has been using the Trayvon Martin shooting as an excuse to go after the limited-government think tank, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on the grounds that it promoted "stand your ground" self-defense legislation. (See my colleague Jacob Sullum's trenchant analysis of the actual relevance of such laws in this situation.)
While that may be ALEC's latest "sin," its biggest one is advocating free markets and limited government. A lot of Team Blue members seem to really believe that the people who disagree with them must be paid, witting agents of secretive evil task masters who scheme to enrich themselves by oppressing the poor. Talk about brain-addled conspiracy theorists!
Instead positing Bilderbergeresque cabals, the Left should, as social psychologist Jonathan Haidt suggests, "Forget the money, follow the sacredness." Values matter more than money. Unfortunately, the morally stunted Left is incapable of understanding that and so conjures up "vast rightwing conspiracies."
In a letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal about the relentless Team Blue crusade against "market voices," Fred Smith, head of the libertarian think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, warns:
The attack on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is part of a broader attack by those seeking to drive all market voices from the marketplace of ideas. ("Shutting Down ALEC," Review & Outlook, April 18). As the Founders realized, "factions"—what we now call "special interests"—are an unavoidable aspect of democracy. The Founders' solution was not to suppress factions, but to "set faction against faction" to ensure vigorous debate. The attack on ALEC runs counter to that spirit. It is a concerted effort to silence one faction by driving productive economic voices from the policy debate.
When businesses seek to expose and reduce the harmful consequences of capricious legislation, that is both their right and good for democracy. When market voices are excluded from the policy debate, the only voices left are those motivated purely by ideology. And as history shows, the greatest harm to nations comes from ideologues who believe they know what's best for everybody.
Our Founders gave us a system based on the battle of ideas. If critics of the free market believe they have a strong case, they should seek to win that battle openly, rather than by silencing the opposition through intimidation. What ALEC's opponents seek is nothing less than the sabotage of democracy. It is especially unfortunate when businesses retreat from backing free-market groups like ALEC when they come under pressure. America needs more CEOs willing to stand up for free enterprise. Readers who agree should let those CEOs know now.
In an email, Smith notes…
…there are only three sources of financial support for anything: Stolen money (government), Dead money (foundations) and Live Money (firms and individuals). All are useful but very different.
He asks why should anyone be nervous about "Live Money" participating in public debates? As Smith correctly points out:
After all, bureaucrats and foundation managers have goals too – are these more moral?
The Left may buy (or not) products from whomever they wish for whatever reasons. However, the pitchfork-wielding Left apparently believes it can win policy debates in America only if it shouts down and shuts up advocates of free markets and limited government (and their financial supporters) who oppose the authoritarian egalitarianism Team Blue stands for.
See also my column, Everyone Who Agrees With Me Knows What They Are Talking About, for reporting on some of the research dealing with the pervasive problem of confirmation bias.
Disclosure: I think that I am still an adjunct fellow at CEI and I had lunch with Fred and Fran last week. FWIW, I paid my part of the tab.