The End of Libertarianism?

Josh Wright —  23 October 2008

Not so fast, says Will Wilkinson is this must read (and well earned) dismantling of Jacob Weisberg’s recent Slate column which has been getting a lot of attention:

If you think “libertarianism” caused the financial crisis, you’re either stupid or dishonest. Weisberg’s argument comes down to the single, simple thought that but for the resistance of Greenspan, Gramm, and Cox to certain regulatory proposals — a libertarian resistance — the crisis would not now be upon us. And so libertarianism is to blame. Accept or reject that thought as you will. It remains that, on Weisberg’s own accounting of things, the crisis would not now be upon us but for countless other contributing causes. So what to make of the light-years-from-libertarian ideological assumptions behind the rest of the regulatory regime? Why, nothing at all! And that’s what it means to be a hack.

What’s going on here? I think Weisberg rightly sees that control over the popular narrative about the causes of the financial collapse could have a big effect on public opinion. And Democrats are about to win the White House together with a robust Congressional majority. So here’s the main chance! The long-awaited dream! The desperate desire! The rightful claim of establishment liberals to the commanding heights is imminent! Now is the time! The sense of entitlement is about to meet title! And the GOP is in utter disarray, having long ago lost any semblance of a coherent philosophy of government. The field is almost clear. Only the utopian punter, holding a tattered copy of Atlas Shrugged, guards the goal line. The embittered professors and graying editors-in-chief cannot bear to wait another season. They will wake to their triumphant dawn. The cry goes up: “Smear the libertarian queer!” And never mind the rules.

Bring it, Weisberg.

My colleague Ilya Somin piles on with a post pointing out some obvious flaws in the “blame deregulation” narrative.