Interests and Ideas

Well-said from Jonathan Chait on the idea that you can draw a rigorous distinction between the Koch Brothers’ ideological commitments and their self-interest:

It seems to me that the line between “ideas” and “interests” is, at best, a lot less clear than Balko makes it out to be. Libertarianism is an idea with many possible interpretations. The notion that corporations should be able to pollute the commons with harmful greenhouse gases at no cost whatsoever is just one such interpretation, and not necessarily the most natural one. Likewise, the notion that reducing the size of government is best achieved by, or even rationally related to, debt-financed regressive tax cuts is also highly contestable. Yet these are interpretations that are very congenial to the Koch brothers’ bottom line, and they’re also the interpretations promoted by Koch-financed groups. So this presumed dichotomy between their narrow interests and their belief in libertarian ideas seems to be a pretty shaky concept.

To emphasize the audacity of the Kochs’ intellectual aspirations, not that it says in the Road to Serfdom that you need “direct regulation by authority” of air pollution unless you can get cap-and-trade system off the ground. Similarly, it was Milton Friedman who coined the phrase “to spend is to tax”, thus rejecting the notion that debt-financed tax cuts are an effective means of reducing the size of government. Those guys have Nobel Prizes. That the conventional wisdom in American right-wing politics disagrees with Hayek and Friedman has a great deal to do with the influence of wealthy individual donors and fossil fuel interests, prominently including the Koch brothers.