The Long Con of Libertarianism

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.

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2 Responses to The Long Con of Libertarianism

  1. Zachary Smith says:

    Whatever else is said about the con job, it’s been an amazing success. What they’ve done is to construct a “belief system” which has taken on the trappings of a religion. People read Atlas Shrugged as a Holy Book, same as they do The Collapse of Complex Societies. Both are chock full of bull ****, but these and similar books serve their purpose.

    Generations of young people have been exposed to saturation doses of Good Private Enterprise vs Evil Government Inefficiency though the medium of Science Fiction. Robert Heinlein was probably the worst with his bombastic output. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress is rank nonsense, but it has left its mark. Poul Anderson was a much nicer guy (and better writer too) but his output was drenched with the notions that Private Is Best. And brother, did he ever dislike Big Government. For him the IRS stood for “Inquisition for Revenue Securement”. In the novel where he penned that phrase was a shoestring space project which sent up the first spacecraft (piloted by a heroic teenage girl!) and beat Big Government to a moon landing. David Brin, H. Beam Piper, Eric Frank Russell, Jerry Pournelle – the list could go on and on. And the stuff was plausible to teenage readers. It took me many years to shake off their nonsense and rejoin the real world.

    The Internet has made the ‘libertarian’ propaganda even more pervasive. Type in the phrases “God is a libertarian” or “Jesus was a libertarian” in a google search and you’ll see how widely the roots of this quasi religion have spread. The missionary works of the True Believers on the Internet make the efforts of the characters who show up at your front door with handouts look lackluster by comparison.

    An almost finished libertarian project has been the takeover of the Republican party. ‘Stealth’ libertarians elected under that banner are happily dismantling basic government functions.

    It’s a bad situation, and shows no signs of getting better.

  2. Markk says:

    Pure Libertarianism is definitiely attractive to people including me sometimes. But I can’t find anybody who is very much pure. I get funny looks when I point out that one of the greatest government interventions in the economy was the institution of the Limited Liability Corporation and thus they would either have to be eliminated as part of a full Libertarian program or if that government intervention is considered crucial (like defense) then just as crucial should be government regulation of corporations to keep things in balance.

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