I’m a strong believer in free speech: With a few narrow and well-defined exceptions, I think people have a moral and legal right to voice their opinions, however misguided their views and however offensive their mode of expression. I also think (to pick an example from the headlines) that it’s grotesque, sexist, and idiotic to exercise that right by, say, verbally abusing a college student for her views on mandatory contraception coverage. When Rush Limbaugh exercises his rights in that way, I think he deserves to be roundly condemned. Also, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to work for him. Nobody who actually understands the principle of “free speech” thinks that this is somehow “ironic” or hypocritical.
Yet when it comes to the ongoing Koch/Cato conflict, there’s a bafflingly widespread round of herp-derpery rippling through blogs on the left and the right, wherein people imagine it’s clever to point out the supposed irony of libertarian scholars failing to enthusiastically embrace a couple billionaires’ putative property rights over the institution. This is just strange.
I don’t know anything about Kansas corporate law, so I have no idea whether, in fact, the Kochs are legally entitled to exercise majority control over Cato now. I’ve heard some persuasive-sounding arguments that their legal case is flawed, but who knows. Still, purely for the sake of argument, suppose they are. If that’s the case, I’m not arguing that Congress should intervene somehow. I’m arguing that exercising those rights as they seemingly intend to is a bad idea; that their direct control would, in itself, be damaging to Cato’s credibility; and that I’m not interested in working for the Republican talking-point factory that all evidence suggests they envision. Like rain on your wedding day and other infamous Alanisisms, that’s kind of crappy, but not “ironic” in any recognizable sense. I realize progressives think libertarianism is just code for uncritical worship of rich people, but as that’s not actually the case, the only irony here is that people think they’re scoring some kind of gotcha point when they’re actually exposing the silliness of their own caricature.