Commenter Knocks Out Professional Columnist

First, the doctrinaire anti-libertarian take from Ezra Klein:

But if the argument is that incremental libertarianism deserves more respect, then it also deserves more accountability. Desperate storytelling about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aside, the financial crisis was, in large part, the product of the idea that massive financial markets that we didn’t understand would effectively regulate themselves. Alan Greenspan, perhaps the only man in America with the unilateral power to have prevented the blowup, has been quite clear on the flaw in his thinking: “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder’s equity — myself especially — are in a state of shocked disbelief.”

To a first approximation, that was a failure of not just a crucial pillar of libertarian economic thought, but of libertarian practice: We spent the ’90s not just deregulating, but much more dangerously, refusing to enact new regulations even as the financial system changed dramatically. One of the key players there was Sen. Phil Gramm, who certainly has his fans at the Cato Institute. His was the sort of libertarianism that is politically potent because it is backed by lots of money and lots of elites who combine to push it into the public discourse.

Taxes are another example. Plenty of libertarians have lined up for repeated tax cuts under the theory that they would stoke enough growth, and force enough compensatory budget cutting, to put the country on a more sustainable fiscal path. Plenty of wealthy individuals and firms have pumped a lot of money into propagating that theory and rewarding politicians who vote they way it asks them to. That theory, however, has been a disaster as a policy matter, even as the individuals and firms have made a lot of money.

And there’s a lot of power, of course, lined up against anything that gets us close to single-payer health care. Most of the arguments made in that debate are fundamentally libertarian ones: that it will reduce freedom, or that government programs are inevitably bloated and wasteful (“Like going to the DMV? You’ll love government health care!”). Cato’s policy wonks spent much of 2009 on television arguing against reforms that would mean more government intrusion into the marketplace. Politicians and political organizations, meanwhile, received a lot of money and support in exchange for making those arguments. But it’s of course true that America, being the developed country with the least nationalized health-care system, also spends the most and has the highest rate of uninsurance.

And now the inside uppercut from a commenter at Hit and Run.

Klein knows that this country started out a totalitarian regime, with all enterprise centrally planned (if anyone could decipher the 100-plus-year-old Constitution, this would be provable). It’s what built America at its height into a prosperous nation. The billionaire libertarians have been effectively chipping away at that well-ordered machine for years, until we’re left with the hollowed shell of a regulatory state that we now see in smoking ruin before us.


  1. Anonymous says:

    “…billionaire libertarians have been effectively chipping away at that well-ordered machine for years…”

    So, are we supposed to understand that the commenter is being sarcastic?