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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

It's a poor rule that won't work both ways, said Frederick ("somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice") Douglass



The Koch Bros. office of court intellectuals, The Cato Institute, is a good example of how theory and practice often travel in parallel, if strikingly similar, universes (characters in Murakami's great novel 1Q84 would have had no idea they'd stepped into the twilight zone had not its sky featured two moons).

From two-moon land, Cato veep David Boaz has issued a think piece demanding that American gays ("LGBT" is anachronistic, he says, not being of the tribes himself) hail capitalism, not socialism, as the progenitor of gay rights in the United States.

Boaz makes a good case:
All the advances in human rights that we’ve seen in American history—abolitionism, feminism, civil rights, gay rights—stem from our founding ideas of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The emphasis on the individual mind in the Enlightenment, the individualist nature of market capitalism, and the demand for individual rights that inspired the American Revolution naturally led people to think more carefully about the nature of the individual and gradually to recognize that the dignity of individual rights should be extended to all people.
Alas, Boaz stopped where he should have just gotten started.

While his article sounds a vaguely progressive note in Cato's overwhelmingly regressive policy universe, the Kochs spend hundreds of millions a year, after all, propping up anti-gay law factories like ALEC and viciously homophobic satellites like dimestore mogul Art Pope's Civitas Institute and the North Carolina General Assembly while filing the occasional amicus brief in gay rights cases to please Brother David, the 1980 Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee.

Why does the Republican Party- the self-described champions of capitalism- spend so much time trying to prevent, then undo, the increased equality of LGBT Americans brought forth by the principles that make capitalism a success? And, for that matter, civil rights generally?

Why lionize in theory what you oppose in practice?

That's the real question.

The lack of an answer underscores the intellectual blinkers big donors, and the desire to seem relevant, keep on genuinely free inquiry.

There's simply a point where the conservative yearning to seem smart, and to have a coherent worldview, always falls prey to incoherence and animus. As Lionel Trilling put it in 1950, "The conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas."

It's just easier- and more fun- to claim to be a Christian who lionizes Ayn Rand, a moralizing scold who was an adulterous slut in her personal life, and whose mastery of world finance was such that when she died (on Medicare and Social Security), her entire estate was in a passbook account at the savings and loan across the street from her New York apartment.

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