Mark Ames does some brilliant muckraking, investigating the shady origins of what libertarians themselves call one of the foundational libertarian organizations, the Foundation for Economic Education. And guess what? Just like today (Got Koch Brothers?), it was funded by industry to increase their profits (boldface mine):
A partial list of FEE’s original donors in its first four years includes: The Big Three auto makers GM, Chrysler and Ford; top oil majors including Gulf Oil, Standard Oil, and Sun Oil; major steel producers US Steel, National Steel, Republic Steel; major retailers including Montgomery Ward, Marshall Field and Sears; chemicals majors Monsanto and DuPont; and other Fortune 500 corporations including General Electric, Merrill Lynch, Eli Lilly, BF Goodrich, ConEd, and more.
The FEE was set up by a longtime US Chamber of Commerce executive named Leonard Read, together with Donaldson Brown, a director in the National Association of Manufacturers lobby group and board member at DuPont and General Motors.
That is how libertarianism started: As an arm of big business lobbying.
…this needs to be repeated again: “Libertarianism” was a project of the corporate lobby world, launched as a big business “ideology” in 1946 by The US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. The FEE’s board included the future founder of the John Birch Society, Robert Welch; the most powerful figure in the Mormon church at that time, J Reuben Clark, a frothing racist and anti-Semite after whom BYU named its law school; and United Fruit director Herb Cornuelle.
The purpose of the FEE — and libertarianism, as it was originally created — was to supplement big business lobbying with a pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-economics rationale to back up its policy and legislative attacks on labor and government regulations.
By the way, United Fruit essentially convinced the CIA to brutally overthrow the democratically elected government of Guatemala. But what’s incredible is Milton Friedman’s role as industry shill, but you should read the original post for that bit.