Knee Deep in the Daily Caller’s Opinion Section

I have to say, I’ve been watching the rise of The Tucker Carlson Post in the wake of their breaking the RNC-meets-Showgirls story with some interest. I’m all for having a smart right/libertarian-leaning answer to HuffPo; a place, god willing, for young, hungry conservatives to gather that people like me and the other liberals on my blogroll can grapple with productively. But I’ve been skimming their Opinion section today, and so far it’s tremendously disappointing.

This in particular, stands out as being exactly what I was afraid of. The whole thing reads as a particularly dry satire of college libertarian pseudointellectuals.1 You know the stereotype I’m talking about: the guy in the thick-rimmed glasses who thinks Ayn Rand is a better chronicler of the human spirit than Ernest Hemingway and can’t have a debate about anything without immediately lapsing into some hardcore mansplaining.2

Maybe Elliot Engstrom isn’t that dude. But I’ll be damned if this isn’t an A-grade mansplanation of the difference between liberal and libertarian thought:

Libertarians generally agree with well-meaning leftists that goals like cleaner food and water, less corporate corruption, and more social freedom would be good things. They simply recognize that the leftist illogically sees government, which is merely a means, as the end. For example, the leftist sees the passage of a congressional bill that intends to help the poor as a good thing, while the libertarian understands that the real test of goodness is not the passage of the bill, but whether or not the bill actually ends up helping the poor.

Christ, what a beaut! This would be deeply wrongheaded even if it weren’t rife with condescension, so I guess we’ll have to regard the condescension as the delicious garnish. Or maybe it’s the whole point; maybe the idea that the left is interested only in perceived intention would be even more laughable at first glance if it weren’t wrapped up in high-minded more-rational-than-thou chin stroking.

Of course, if we were to take the argument seriously on its own merits–which probably seems like a waste of time, but hey, it doesn’t cost a thing to be unnecessarily generous–then liberals should have rallied around the Clean Air Act and Clear Skies Act simply because we are pro-clean air and clear skies. Hell, what’s our excuse for not supporting the PATRIOT Act and No Child Left Behind? The only possible explanation is some sort of deep-seated hatred of children and patriotism (but especially patriotic children, those little assholes).

But nothing in this column is constructed to be seriously engaged with. Consider the following assertions:

An analysis of the history of government reveals that even government actions with good intent usually end up resulting in negative consequences.

And later:

Leftists have celebrated the recent reforms because the bill is supposed to promote access to health care for all Americans. Applying the pattern of logic already summarized, the question must be asked: will these reforms in reality lead to better, more widely available health care for most Americans? The answer according to libertarians is a resounding no, and this is the reason for our protests.

In defense of the latter–an “analysis” of every government action of the past half century–he offers one shallow example. In defense of the latter, he … changes the subject to deficit reduction.

I’m really eager to believe that this is an isolated flub, but in skimming the rest of the Opinion section I see two trends: embracing tired, shallow 2008 campaign narratives, and doubling down on, of all things, the Tea Partiers.

Come on, guys. No way is this the best you can do.

1Disclaimer: Who need to be distinguished from smart, non-condescending libertarians, many of whom I read, admire, and am friends with.

2Incidentally, this is one of my new favorite neologisms, which means I’m probably two or three posts away from it turning into a full-fledged rhetorical crutch.

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One Response

  1. But why are you focusing on the Opinion section at all? My understanding is that the Daily Caller isn’t even paying for some of the Opinion submissions they print–which is smart if you want to be devoting resources to actually uncovering news stories. The reason to be excited about a smart, right-leaning HuffPo isn’t that they’re going to publish uniquely interesting right-leaning opinion content; there are places to find that already (from Reihan’s blog at NR to a large percentage of AmCon content to Cato @ Liberty). It’s that there is a massive vacuum in terms of right-leaning news content that isn’t beholden to the Republican Party.

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