Arnold Kling  

Brink Lindsey, Will Wilkinson

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Sovereign Debt Wonkery... Bill Dickens versus the Signal...

They are leaving Cato, and bloggers are gossiping. Here is my $.02:

1. I get paid by the piece writing for Cato occasionally, and they give me the title "adjunct scholar." But I have no office or salary there. I have not communicated with Brink, Will, or anyone from Cato about the changes of employer.

2. When I worked for large organizations, I never observed a personnel change that was truly driven by policy direction. Personality conflicts were always the main factor. I used to say, "Never ascribe to strategic calculation that which can be attributed to corporate soap opera."

3. Based on my experience, I recommend being driven out of positions because of personality conflicts. Some of my best career moves came about that way. Your mileage may vary.

4. Republican exploitation of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy is giving me a fresh appreciation of liberaltarianism.

5. What is to become of Cato Unbound? That was mostly Will's project (Brink did a lot to get it started), and it provided many stimulating pieces. Robin Hanson on slashing health care, for example. Bryan Caplan on the myth of the rational voter, for another.

6. One of Brink's talents was the ability to spot smart people with interesting ideas. His loss may hurt more than you might expect.


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CATEGORIES: Business Economics



COMMENTS (30 to date)
Eric writes:

>Republican exploitation of the Ground Zero >Mosque controversy is giving me a fresh >appreciation of liberaltarianism.

Not sure I get this. Liberals destroy U.S. healthcare system, add monstrous unsustainable debt. Economic effect on 15% or so of GDP (conservatively)

Conservatives complain about a Mosque. (although I still expect property rights to prevail). Economic effect, essentially 0.

Enough to drive me to vote for Obama.

Carl writes:

It's hilarious when people attempt to frame an outrageous guess as a "conservative estimate". See Eric's post.

Jody writes:

Carl - Eric's 15% estimate was for the relative size of segment of the economy associated with health care. 15% is on the low side of those estimates (18% is the number I see used most often). So 15% would be a conservative estimate of that segment's relative size.

Eric writes:

Carl,

Fair enough. I'm utterly shocked everytime I read about "liberaltarianism" and overreacted. I am convinced, though, that Obamacare will have a noticeable negative effect on my life and that of many other Americans. The mosque might (or might not) have a noticeable negative effect on a significantly smaller number of Americans. I can't see the two being remotely equivalent in voting strategy, even if 15% is an number inflated in an overreacting moment.

Eric writes:

Jody,

You're right that that's where I got the number but, to Carl's point, I'm not sure what percentage of that 15% is actually affected by Obamacare. I did phrase it as "economic effect on 15%" rather than "economic effect of 15%" so I do have some technical wiggle room.

david writes:

I would be most interested to know whether the Ground Zero Mosque* controversy has finally shaken Kling's previously-stated belief that the tea-party movement is really about pushing for smaller government instead of about refighting the culture war.

*which is neither a mosque, nor at Ground Zero, but whatever.

Kevin Driscoll writes:

This post is now about the Ground Zero mosque:

I feel like there is room for libertarians on both sides of this debate. Although some of the high profile personalities are claiming that the government has some mandate to stop this mosque, the rank and file are mostly united in their belief that this community has a right to build the mosque, but that the costs clearly outweigh the benefits and they therefore shouldn't do it. That seems like something libertarians can disagree about without violating their ideology.

Also, don't forget that the Ayn Rand objectivist crowd has condemned the building of this cultural center because they feel that the US is at war with Islam. It's not a position that I myself hold, but it is one that I am open minded about. If you agree that we are at war with Islam then you would see this cultural center as a victory for Islam and a threat to the well-being of the US.

On topic, I too am interested in the future of Cato Unbound. RCP carried several of their interesting stories.

Dain writes:

David,

The Park51 project contains a mosque:

http://www.ap.org/pages/about/pressreleases/pr_081910b.html

Dan Weber writes:

IF we were at war with Radical Islam, then the best thing to do would be to take their money and put it into the Manhattan economy. So let's let them.

pj writes:

The discussion over at Volokh is interesting.

Ilya Somin notes that in Lindsey's last column he seemed to give up on a libertarian alliance with the left, and says this suggests he wasn't purged for liberal sympathies: "If Cato objected to Lindsey’s advocacy of an alliance with the left, one would think they would have purged him back when he was actually advocating it, not after he has repudiated it."

But the problem with Lindsey is not his advocacy of alliances with the left -- everyone can support looking for and finding opportunities to cooperate for mutual gain, conservatives as well as libertarians favor cooperating with the left when good can be achieved -- but the extraordinary bile he has been spewing at the right. He titled his last column "Right is Wrong" and included every slander of conservatives that the left has pushed in the last 10 years. Not to mention leftist critiques of America ("[America's] founding principles included the enslavement of blacks, subjugation of women, and expropriation of Indian lands"). He seems to despise conservatives, especially Christians.

His attitude toward the left is far more friendly. He disagrees with some of the left's policies, but likes them and still sees them as desirable allies on half his issues.

If the Cato Institute hopes to wield influence in Washington, it needs goodwill. Slanders and bile will not achieve that. They probably don't help fundraising either.

I don't know why Lindsey and Wilkinson are leaving, but I suspect Cato is better for it.

ziel writes:

He seems to despise conservatives, especially Christians...I don't know why Lindsey and Wilkinson are leaving, but I suspect Cato is better for it.

The bile and invective hurled towards those in opposition to the Mosque in this whole controversy far exceeds in viciousness any of the alleged "hate" found among the opponents' arguments.

Andy Hallman writes:
Also, don't forget that the Ayn Rand objectivist crowd has condemned the building of this cultural center because they feel that the US is at war with Islam. It's not a position that I myself hold, but it is one that I am open minded about.

I'm not opened minded on this because I think it's just talking nonsense. A nation cannot be at war with a religion in any meaningful sense.

Andy Hallman writes:
Eric: Conservatives complain about a Mosque. (although I still expect property rights to prevail). Economic effect, essentially 0.

I think a politician's position on the cultural center is important because it will have a greater effect on popular attitudes toward Muslims. I think it will affect the quality of life of those people noticeably.

Why do you assume that the economic effect is the only effect worth caring about?

Kevin Driscoll writes:

@Dan
If Osama Bin Laden came to us and wanted to build a recruitment center in the US, I think it is obvious that allowing him to do that would be a mistake. If he recruits even 1 person to perform a terrorist attack against the US then any benefit from money he put into the economy in the process would certainly be nullified. The proposition that it is beneficial for a country to allow its enemies to setup strongholds within its borders is demonstrably wrong. If you could take ONLY their money, you would, but with their money inevitably comes their influence.

@Andy
There are some pretty meaningful ways in which a nation can be said to be at war with a religion or an ideology. Generally, when two countries are at war, they are engaging in armed conflict with the goal of forcibly securing some benefit (land, resources, lives). This is easily generalizable to the situation of one country and a religion/ideology/ethnicity. Is it not fair to say that Nazi Germany was at war with Judaism? Certainly Germany engaged in armed conflict against Jews to secure a perceived benefit (ethnic purity?). You might say, 'Well, Judiasm as a religion cannot physically do anything, only Jews can." But this is really no objection at all because Germany as a country cannot physically do anything, only Germans can. The actions of Germans supervene on the actions of Germany, if Germans do nothing then Germany also does nothing, by definition. Usually we think of countries as actors and religions as non-actors but this is really an illusion. If the Objectivists are right, then it is meaningful to say that the US is at war with Islam in that Islam advocates the destruction of the US and Muslims and Americans engage in armed conflict.

Eric writes:

Andy,

I don't necessarily assume the economic effect is the only one worth caring about. I think politicians should butt out and let the property owners do what they want. I think it's wrong for the government to intervene. But it's only one mosque. It's not like the conservatives are advocating outlawing Islam or preventing the building of any mosques anywhere. It's a matter of degree compared to the liberal intrusions into people's lives. Conservatives often speak my rhetoric and occasionally implement good policies. Liberals aren't even on the same planet.

Andy Hallman writes:
You might say, 'Well, Judiasm as a religion cannot physically do anything, only Jews can." But this is really no objection at all because Germany as a country cannot physically do anything, only Germans can. The actions of Germans supervene on the actions of Germany, if Germans do nothing then Germany also does nothing, by definition.

You point out that both a "nation" and a "religion" are abstractions that refer to groups of individuals. However, it is well known that when we say the US is at war with, say, Spain, what we mean is the governments of the respective countries are at war, and not necessarily that every American wants to kill every Spaniard, or vice versa. Religions do not command armies in the way that nations do so I don't think they can be included in this linguistic tradition.

To say the US is at war with Islam is stretching the "war" metaphor much too far. A nation can surrender to end a war, or sign a peace treaty or armistice. It can draft its citizens to fight on its behalf. Can a religion do any of that? To say we can wage war on Islam makes as much sense to me as saying we can wage war on the color purple.

Andy Hallman writes:
It's not like the conservatives are advocating outlawing Islam or preventing the building of any mosques anywhere.

What they are saying is that they are either unwilling or unable to distinguish peaceful Muslims from terrorists, or at least that the first group is enough like the second that it should receive strict supervision and be treated differently from the rest of society.

John Fembup writes:

"What they are saying is that they are either unwilling or unable to distinguish peaceful Muslims from terrorists"

Really? Andy, I think they are saying something different. I think they are saying that YOU are either unwilling or unable to distinguish between the two.

I think "the conservatives" are saying that the specific Muslims that are pushing the mosque at WTC site are not peaceful. And I think it's YOU who suggest they are.

And that, I think, is the disagreement. It seems to me a real stretch to imagine this is about freedom of religion or the first amendment.

Lars P writes:
To say we can wage war on Islam makes as much sense to me as saying we can wage war on the color purple.

...or terrorism, drugs or poverty.

Eternal wars are good to build industries around.

(I can't decide if this is off topic or not)

Tracy W writes:

Kevin: If Osama Bin Laden came to us and wanted to build a recruitment center in the US, I think it is obvious that allowing him to do that would be a mistake. If he recruits even 1 person to perform a terrorist attack against the US then any benefit from money he put into the economy in the process would certainly be nullified.

Unless of course, in the process he managed to alienate people so much that two potential terrorists were deferred.

The proposition that it is beneficial for a country to allow its enemies to setup strongholds within its borders is demonstrably wrong.

I'm not entirely sure what this has to do with the topic of mosques. If I was a terorist, I think I'd try to use better hidden places to plan my terrorist attacks.

If you could take ONLY their money, you would, but with their money inevitably comes their influence.

You have such little faith in your own culture as that?
Christainity survived and prospered despite the Romans martyring its adherents. The Americans revolted against their own king, successfully. Western civilisation analysed slavery as wrong, and, eventually, eliminated it. Feminism too sprung forth from within Western culture, where women realised they were as entitled to the natural rights as men. And yet, you think we are so weak that we need fear influence from Muslim churches?

Carl writes:

Eric,
I misread your post as "effect of 15%" as opposed to "effect on 15%". My bad.

liberty writes:

"I think "the conservatives" are saying that the specific Muslims that are pushing the mosque at WTC site are not peaceful. And I think it's YOU who suggest they are.

And that, I think, is the disagreement. It seems to me a real stretch to imagine this is about freedom of religion or the first amendment."

Wow. I sure hope you are alone among conservatives in this view. What evidence is there that the property owner attempting to build this mosque & cultural center is not peaceful? If you assume they are dangerous because some on your "side" of politics don't mind denying them their rights you are truly willing to blindly obey your heroes.

Carl writes:

Kevin seems to fundamentally misunderstand Islam. It is not like Catholicism. There is no authoritative council of Islam that controls the religion and its followers. It is impossible to be at war with Islam because Islam is not an entity. It's a loosely held set of beliefs.

Mercer writes:

"unable to distinguish peaceful Muslims from terrorists, or at least that the first group is enough like the second that it should receive strict supervision and be treated differently from the rest of society."

The US government is currently killing Muslims in at least four countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Our ally Israel is killing Muslims in Gaza and Lebanon. Bush and Obama say we are at war only against a few terrorists but how do you know that Muslims believe this? When Muslims see the US and Israel killing Muslims on a regular basis in an "long war" that has no clearly defined endpoint I don't think it is crazy of them to think that we are at war with Islam.

Hallman in the words I quoted thinks that the US can continue killing Muslims in several countries and not worry about offending most of the Muslim population. I think this is naive. I think that our actions in the Mideast is outraging most of the Muslim population and that is stupid for the US to be killing Muslims in several countries and at the same time letting Muslims immigrate to the US. When we were bombing Germany and Japan in WWII we did not let them immigrate to the US.

I don't have much of an opinion on the NY mosque because I don't live there. I do think it is strange of people to think that Muslims around the world would be outraged at not being allowed to build there but would not be bothered by the US and Israel killing Muslims in several countries.

Taimyoboi writes:

Arnold,

Why are the views of the Republican Party (a political organization) forcing you to take a fresh look at Liberaltarianism (a political philosophy/ideology)?


Colin K writes:

I'm unconcerned about making alliances with the culture warriors. Even when they win elections they lose the war. Obama did more for fiscal liberalism in 12 months than Dubya did for social conservatism in eight years.

My only concern is whether Hannity, Palin et. al. are chasing away too many center-left voters concerned about fiscal issues. Given that opposition to the mosque is running 60-70% in national polls, this doesn't worry me too much.

John Fembuo writes:

"Wow. I sure hope you are alone among conservatives in this view. What evidence is there that the property owner attempting to build this mosque & cultural center is not peaceful? "

Well liberty, I said nothing about what I assume. I only observed that this disagreement is over the motivation behind building a mosque at that particular site. A motivation so strong, I might add, that the building owners won't even meet with the governor of NY, who offers to help find a mutually agreeable alternative site.

What evidence is there, you ask? As you yourself point out the answer is "none" -- if you aren't looking.

That applies to you as much as to anyone else. And that was my point, after all.

Constantine XI Palaeologos writes:

"a nation can not be at war with a religion"
Tell that to the Byzantine Empire.

liberty writes:

John Fembuo,

I certainly wouldn't meet with the governor either--the only point of that meeting would be to let the governor strong-arm me into giving up my property. Good for them! Take it to the Supreme Court! If we allow politicians to trample the property rights of someone based on their religion, we might as well institute a state religion while we're at it.

There is no evidence of bad intent, and I am looking! There are other mosques in the area (along with strip clubs, etc) already.

"Muslims have been worshipping at Mosque Manhattan a few blocks away from Ground Zero, long before Ground Zero was Ground Zero; in fact, since 1970, before the twin towers were the twin towers."

This mosque is a cultural center and many other things too. The founder of the proposed mosque is, by all available evidence, a good man.

"What is particularly indecent or insensitive about American Muslims building a house of peace, community, and worship that doesn't apply to the New York Dolls gentlemen club?

Let's be blunt: it is only indecent and insensitive if you buy into the canard that American Muslims are somehow collectively guilty for 9/11."
http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/religion_theseeker/2010/08/untold-story-behind-the-mosque-at-ground-zero.html


"The"Ground Zero Mosque" fiasco is a fabricated controversy that traces its origins to a couple of long-time anti-Muslim goons from the annals of the hate blogosphere by the names of Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller as a flagship campaign of their newly founded organization, Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA). SIOA is part of an emerging phenomenon of astroturf anti-Muslim organizations that seek to project any public expression of Muslim life in this country as tantamount to a stealth "Islamization of America." (Except it's not so stealth since everyone and their mother is talking about it).

It was SIOA that first coined the misnomer "Mosque at Ground Zero," purposely twisting the reality that the proposed Muslim cultural center near Ground Zero is neither a Mosque nor at Ground Zero. It was the SIOA that sought to redefine Imam Rauf as a radical Imam even though he was heralded by the Bush administration, the FBI and others as a moderate voice of reason. It was the SIOA and its partners that ruthlessly sought to stoke the fears and suspicions of otherwise good, unsuspecting Americans."

See also,
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-25/mosque-project-near-nyc-s-ground-zero-tests-u-s-freedoms-bloomberg-says.html

John Fembup writes:

"There is no evidence of bad intent, and I am looking! "

liberty, once again you make my point. Thanks.

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