The Corner

Economy & Business

A Little More Olsen

On the unhappy subject of Henry Olsen’s sloppy work, I should have mentioned this bit: In the course of abominating the alleged libertarian domination of Republican thinking under the influence of . . . me . . . and others, he writes:

Libertarians, who are philosophically opposed to any federal government action, have insinuated themselves into the conservative intellectual infrastructure over the past three decades. As a result, Republican intellectual orthodoxy now says that taxes can never be raised; that any government program is bound to fail and, hence, should be opposed; and that the only direction government spending should move is backward. Hence the 2011 spectacle where every candidate for president in “the party of Reagan” said they would oppose a hypothetical deal that raised taxes by $1 for every $10 in public spending cuts.

I do like to think that I had some influence in the debate around that hypothetical. But as two minutes’ worth of work would have revealed, I was on the opposite side of the one Henry Olsen criticizes.

But, in any case: Who are these libertarians “who are philosophically opposed to any federal government action” and have great influence over contemporary Republican thinking? Not me. Not anybody who writes for National Review that I can think of. Not Rand Paul or Paul Ryan or Ted Cruz. Outside of the ghost of Murray Rothbard, not heard from in some time, I cannot think of anyone on the Right who is “philosophically opposed to any federal government action.” Perhaps Henry Olsen can enlighten us. But I do not think that he can, because he is talking through his hat.

Call me old-fashioned, but if you have a column in the Washington Post, then you ought to consider trying to do a little bit of journalism in it. That isn’t always fun, of course. Sometimes, you actually have to sit down and read someone’s work before responding to it. It can be a drag, but this is the life we chose.

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