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Koch Heads

Matthew Yglesias is back from vacation and has a nice, pithy reaction to Jane Mayer's article on the Koch brothers:

The orthodox view among American conservatives and libertarians and “free market” advocates more generally is that if I want to walk up to the edge of my lawn and then turn my garden hose on and start messing up your lawn, than the correct capitalist response is to say that I’m doing something wrong. If I totally wreck your garden, that’s worse. If I spray water into your house and wreck your stuff, that’s worse too. Even if your house is kind of dumpy and poor and not worth very much money, it’s still wrong for me to just randomly spray water into it. Even if I really really enjoy spraying your house, it’s still wrong. I either need to stop spraying your house or else I need to reach an agreement with you about how I’m going to compensate you for the right to spray. If I insist on continuing to spray your house with water without mutual acceptable compensation, then shutting my operation down should be a matter of some social priority.
That’s the orthodox view. It’s also the orthodox view among American conservatives, libertarians, and “free market” fans that the situation regarding greenhouse gas emissions doesn’t share any important features in common with the parable you find above. I think that if Bangladeshi peasants played the role in financing right-of-center political activity in the United States that the Koch Brothers play, the situation would probably be different.

Conservatives are happy to acknowledge, and even celebrate, the role played by conservative donors in helping conservatives fight ideological battles against liberals. But they are loathe to acknowledge the role that conservative donors play in waging ideological battles within conservatism itself. I'd say conservative donors have made the conservative movement and the Republican Party far more responsive to the interests of corporations and high-income individuals. There is an unusually large supply of capital to finance propaganda extolling the benefits of lower taxes for the rich and casting doubt on proposals to account for the externality cost of carbon dioxide emissions. But you don't see conservatives admitting that that fnancing has had an effect.

If all you knew about conservatism was its foundational ideological texts, you could just as easily imagine that conservatives would believe that it's senseless to cut taxes without cutting spending, and that it would make perfect sense for the government to tax carbon emissions rather than something else, once science has established the harmful effects of such emissions beyond a reasonable doubt. That conservatism has evolved in a different direction owes a great deal to the interests of some its its richest donors. If a similar thing had happened to liberalism, I'd be extremely concerned. I don't understand why conservatives aren't correspondingly upset.