If Reagan Were Pinochet…Sigh

While I have your attention, I want to highlight two dimensions of that 1981 Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) meeting in Pinochet’s Chile that Hayek helped organize. You can read about the whole affair here: I encourage you to do so; the devil, ahem, really is in the details.

But two points stand out for me. The first is how hard the meeting’s organizers worked to transmit the notion that the ideas of Hayek and Milton Friedman had found a home in Pinochet’s Chile. One of the ways they did so was by seamlessly interweaving the distinctive vocabulary of Hayek and Friedman into their accounts of Pinochet. Pedro Ibáñez, one of the original organizers, told the attendees that with the election of Allende

we were no longer free to choose: after forty years of socialist recklessness [Allende had been a government minister as early as 1939] only one road remained open to us—“Friedmanism”—always provided that we had a government strong and courageous enough to establish it.

Chile has regained her liberal traditions and therefore come closer to the spirit of Mont Pelerin.

The second point is the frequent comparisons members of Hayek’s circle made between Pinochet’s Chile and other countries. In a lot of the debate I’ve seen around this issue, the defenders of Hayek von Pinochet tend to invoke Stalin, Pol Pot, or Mao. What’s interesting about that move is that a previous generation of defenders felt no need to go there at all. They actually thought Pinochet’s Chile compared favorably with…Reagan’s America.

But even David Stockman, in his most ambitious budget cutting dreams, could not envision what is politically possible in the land of Augusto Pinochet. The Fortune article claims that in Chile, “the market’s invisible hand is an iron fist.”…

But what is politically possible in authoritarian Chile, may not be possible in a republic with a congress filled with “gypsy moths” for whom political expediency often takes precedence over economic realities, especially in an election year.

That was Eric Brodin, part of the Mont Pelerin inner circle, writing in the MPS newsletter about the meeting in Chile.


  1. Benjamin David Steele June 26, 2013 at 11:27 am | #

    Thanks for writing this, Corey. This utterly dismantles the pseudo-criticism of Neffer:


    “Your argument against Hayak’s ideas is to attack Hayak the man – that is, in essence, an ad hominem argument and thus not, as a matter of simple logic, a valid argument.”

    There is a very strange assumption that a man and his ideas can be separated, the pure ideas cleansed of all the ugly details of reality. It is a weird thought process. How does it strengthen the merit of an idea by attempting to disconnect it from reality?

    Your response here was perfect:

    “how hard the meeting’s organizers worked to transmit the notion that the ideas of Hayek and Milton Friedman had found a home in Pinochet’s Chile.”

    The point isn’t the obvious fact that a man’s ideas are inseparable from the man himself. You take it a step further. The ideas were being connected to Pinochet and Pinochet’s Chile was being described as a natural fit for those ideas by the proponents themselves (i.e., the men themselves).

    It all fits together seemlessly. It will take some impressive contortions for the likes of Neffer to wriggle out of the stranglehold of the obvious.

    • neffer June 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm | #

      The point isn’t the obvious fact that a man’s ideas are inseparable from the man himself.

      I did not argue that a man is separable from his ideas. I argued that a man’s ideas are not refuted by his biography. You evidently do not understand what an ad hominem argument is or why it is an invalid form of argumentation.

      The point here is that everything Robin claims about Hayek could be true – and even worse things could be true. None of it makes Hayek’s ideas any more or less valid as ideas. If you do not understand that point, you do not understand what an argument is.

      • Corey Robin June 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm | #

        If I could just chime in here. Nowhere do I say or even remotely suggest that Hayek’s ideas are invalidated or refuted by his biography. Indeed, I’d be surprised if you could find one passage in what I have written that would suggest that. Additionally, you’ve got the slight problem on your hands that I’ve just written a 10,000-word piece on Hayek’s ideas — the piece that started this whole discussion off — which makes barely any mention of his Pinochet connection or his biography. It’s all about his ideas and how they relate to other ideas. So this is a most unpromising tack for you to be taking. Why don’t we just come back down to reality.

  2. neffer June 26, 2013 at 1:37 pm | #

    I am commenting on your above article, not any article you may have written. The above article is simply an ad hominem smear. That you may have views on the noted economist’s ideas, not just his biography, is encouraging. I hope that your arguments in the noted article are better than those above – which, as I note, are invalid, as a matter of simple logic.

    You arguments here do not become valid just because you have written something valid elsewhere. Surely, you know that to be the case. That is merely another invalid form of argumentation.

    • Corey Robin June 26, 2013 at 1:43 pm | #

      But of course you have yet to point to anything in this post that either states or suggests that his ideas are invalidated by his actions. But since you insist on remaining ill-informed, let me walk you through this. The reason for this post is that I wrote a lengthy article on Hayek’s ideas in which I referenced, in passing, his engagement with Pinochet. Several people challenged my claims about that engagement — what it entailed and what it signified — so I had to write a response explaining what it was that Hayek did and why it matters. That is what this post is about. It’s not a post where I see to invalidate Hayek’s ideas.

      • neffer June 26, 2013 at 1:53 pm | #

        I read your explanations. As you indicate, “I had to write a response explaining what it was that Hayek did and why it matters.”

        I submit that it matters, on your view, as to whether his ideas are worthy. That is why you responded. Otherwise, you would respond that the noted objections to your article were off point.

        Instead, you indicate that your critics who note that his biography is unimportant are wrong. Are they merely wrong about his biography? Or, that his involvement with Pinochet was more significant than your critics admit? If it does not go to Hayek’s ideas, why, other than as a matter of biographical detail, does it matter? You explain it. Your article above does not.

        Rather, the very fact that you think it important to respond, now with two articles, shows that you think the matter rather important to something. So, if it is not important to his ideas, why do you think the issue important?

        • Corey Robin June 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm | #

          I think I’ve done enough of your homework for you for one day. The answers to your questions as to why Hayek’s engagement with Pinochet is “important” are in the post. But since you need so much help, here’s a hint: it’s not because that engagement invalidates his ideas or demonstrates their worth.

  3. neffer June 26, 2013 at 2:11 pm | #

    Corey Robin June 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    I think I’ve done enough of your homework for you for one day. The answers to your questions as to why Hayek’s engagement with Pinochet is “important” are in the post. But since you need so much help, here’s a hint: it’s not because that engagement invalidates his ideas or demonstrates their worth.

    In other words, you are unwilling to set forth even the one or two word explanation of what is entirely missing in your article, namely, an explanation, other than its importance to Hayek’s ideas, of why you think the issues raised about Hayek’s biography are important. Even your stupidest readers must realize that your response is an admission that you are refusing to admit that you made what is, by any standard, an argument that is, as a matter of Logic 101, invalid.

    • Corey Robin June 26, 2013 at 2:27 pm | #

      “Even your stupidest readers”…

      • neffer June 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm | #

        Indeed. quoting from the Oxford Dictionaries:

        Pronunciation: /ˈstjuːpɪd/
        Translate stupid | into French | into German | into Italian | into Spanish
        Definition of stupid
        adjective (stupider, stupidest)

        lacking intelligence or common sense:I was stupid enough to think she was perfect
        dazed and unable to think clearly:apprehension was numbing her brain and making her stupid
        informal used to express exasperation or boredom:she told him to stop messing about with his stupid painting


        a stupid person (often used as a term of address):you’re not a coward, stupid!



        And, your point? Perhaps, I should have written: anyone will understand that you have presented an invalid argument. That remains the case.

  4. Steven June 26, 2013 at 3:28 pm | #

    In what way is giving a full-throated intellectual defense of Pinochet not an “idea”? Clearly, Hayek saw his support of Pinochet as perfectly consistent with his broader political theory – the burden of proof is on his defenders to show that his ideas are separable from his application of his ideas to this particular case. We’re not talking about something Hayek did in his private life that has no relationship to politics – being a bad father or husband, etc – but his political actions, actions which we can assume he thought followed from his theory (otherwise why have a theory and why act?).

    • Benjamin David Steele June 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm | #

      You’re making too much sense. Dial back the rationality, would you?

    • neffer June 26, 2013 at 4:10 pm | #

      What does Hayek’s “full-throated intellectual defense” of Pinochet have to do with Hayek’s ideas? What is being called out by Robin is that Hayek defended Pinochet. That is historically interesting but philosophically irrelevant to the validity or invalidity of anything Hayek wrote.

      Robin denies that he is writing against Hayek’s ideas. I find that preposterous. This is either about his ideas or it is not. You agree with me that this is, in fact, about Hayek’s ideas. That, to me, is a sign of intellectual honesty. Consider, though: if the issue is Hayek’s ideas, then the discussion of his defense of Pinochet is, as a matter of simple logic, irrelevant.

      Moreover, everything Robin has written about Hayek may be true. However, that bit of biography does not tell us the “why” of the defense. Maybe Pinochet offered Hayek something of value that is not fully understood. Maybe Hayek was blackmailed. Maybe Hayek owed something to someone that could be “paid back” by writing glowingly about Pinochet. Who knows? But, the one thing we can say is that, so far as Hayek’s ideas are concerned, defending Pinochet is irrelevant, full stop. And, to assert otherwise is to walk away from the basic rules of what is a valid argument.

      • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg June 27, 2013 at 7:31 am | #

        This reminds me of a charming argument I had with a self-proclaimed fascist. Mussolini’s support for Hitler, you see, can’t be taken to reflect on fascism itself. Fascism can’t be judged by the actions of Hitler. Why, that would be a logical fallacy!

        That fellow was at least helpful enough to provide me a link to the wikipedia page titled “Ad hominem.”

      • William July 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm | #

        I won’t speak to Robin’s or anyone else’s ultimate motive in writing what he’s writing about Hayek and why his association with Pinochet matters – but I’ll offer an opinion of my own.

        In my worldview, the human factor is the key factor to human existence. The only way for humankind to truly progress, in my opinion, is by working together to further our common interests, not to advance the interests of a few at the expense of the many.

        People who think differently are therefore hostile to my worldview; but rather than just attack them, I would want to know why they dismiss the human majority in favor of elitism or outright sociopathy.
        Why they feel it is more important for a privileged few (of which these people almost always feel that they belong to) to dictate the terms of human existence to people who do not agree.

        Hayek, along with Friedman, von Mises and Rand (for her Objectivism appears to be strongly influenced by these thinkers to an amateur like me) are not afraid to associate themselves to violent, brutish men like Pinochet in order to see their goals achieved. This is antithetical to my worldview, as violence is not necessary to promote true progressive goals. Therefore, it is vital to understand what kind of person would not only promote the “miracle” of the temporary dictator, but applaud such a person.

  5. neffer June 27, 2013 at 10:05 am | #

    Blinkenlights der Gutenberg June 27, 2013 at 7:31 am #

    This reminds me of a charming argument I had with a self-proclaimed fascist. Mussolini’s support for Hitler, you see, can’t be taken to reflect on fascism itself. Fascism can’t be judged by the actions of Hitler. Why, that would be a logical fallacy!

    That fellow was at least helpful enough to provide me a link to the wikipedia page titled “Ad hominem.”

    So, as you see it, Hayek is to Pinochet what Mussolini was to Hitler. Are you for real?

    Hitler and Mussolini were both national socialists. They were both political leaders. Mussolini was supposedly also an intellectual. Be that as it may, in that both were political leaders and both were involved in closely related political movements, the admiration of Mussolini for Hitler is quite a different thing than the visit of Hayek to the petty dictator Pinochet.

    It is also to be noted that, prior to WWII, both Hitler and Mussolini had a widespread number of admirers among liberals. Many a liberal and even socialists found much to admire in Mussolini. Some saw things positive in Hitler. Both had strong followings among progressive elements in the US, particularly in academia including at so-called elite institutions. You might read he Third Reich in the Ivory Tower, by Stephen H. Norwood, who has written a pretty exhaustive account of such involvement. I rather doubt, if most such admirers had a crystal ball, they would have remained admirers.

    So, I think, if we are not to throw our common sense away, we need to distinguish between biographically and historically interesting information, on the one hand, and insights coming from people, without regard to their views.

    We are more likely to find important information about Hayek’s politics from what foods he liked than from the fact that he flattered Pinochet.

    • Peter Mayers June 27, 2013 at 2:55 pm | #

      I don’t rightly understand your objection here. As far as I can make out, Robin HAS BEEN addressing Hayek’s ideas — that is, Hayek’s specific combination of ideas.

      Other libertarians are not obliged, of course, to agree with Hayek regarding Pinochet. Nevertheless, this is what Hayek’s views were actually like on this question.

      It may furthermore be the case that, from the standpoint of other libertarian doctrines — or even, perhaps, from the standpoint of sheer logical consistency — Hayek’s views didn’t hold together altogether coherently. Perhaps he made more room for a dictatorship under certain conditions than a consistent libertarian ought to do. But the idea that a dictatorship under certain conditions is the best option — or at any rate the least bad one — was an idea that Hayek genuinely held. It was one of the ideas he held, which he combined with various other ones.

      Furthermore, this particular idea isn’t COMPLETELY out of kilter with his other ideas; combining them in the way that he did is hardly wholly far-fetched or totally incoherent. Robin might be going a bit far when he writes: “How could he NOT?” (I.e., how could Hayek NOT have endorsed the Pinochet regime, given the overall nature of his — Hayek’s — ideas and notions?) Still, Robin gives a number of good reasons why Hayek’s position regarding Pinochet shouldn’t strike us as strange or unexpected. First, of course, there’s Hayek’s embrace of dictatorial government under certain conditions; second, there are the elements within Hayek’s overall thinking to which Robin refers in the paragraph beginning with the words: “Given everything we know about Hayek.”

      In sum, I don’t understand your criticism of Robin’s argument here. You needn’t agree, of course, with Robin’s views in general, or with his assessment of Hayek’s thought in particular; but I don’t see how you can claim that Robin hasn’t been addressing Hayek’s ideas.

      • neffer June 27, 2013 at 3:43 pm | #


        My comment related to what is written in the above article. As I see the matter, he is attempting, by means of an ad hominem argument, to attack the views of Hayek.

        Now, I think Hayek’s views are appropriately criticized. I am not a fan of his at all. And, even if I were, criticism is still a good thing.

        I might note – and I am not a Hayek scholar and am not a libertarian or any other point of view that might see wisdom in his ideas – that even my minimal reading of Hayek is enough to tell me that he did not favor dictatorship but, rather, recognized that dictatorships existed, that they could transform towards more liberal regimes and that democracies might become illiberal. Which is to say, I rather think that our kind host, Prof. Robin, is reading a lot into Hayek and, in fact, employing the ad hominem to tar him.

    • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg June 27, 2013 at 3:04 pm | #

      You’ve badly misunderstood. The analogy is as follows:

      neffer : Hayek :: fascist douchebag : Mussolini.

      Hope that clears things up, and good luck on the SATs!

      • neffer June 27, 2013 at 3:44 pm | #

        That’s pretty offensive garbage.

      • Will Rubenstein June 28, 2013 at 10:37 am | #

        June 27, 2013 at 3:44 pm
        That’s pretty offensive garbage.

        How exactly is it “offensive garbage”? Is your perfect logical brain so unable to grasp the basic structure of an analogy? “Dog : bark :: cat : purr” does not support the contention that dogs purr.

        Let’s review for a second: you are not being called a “fascist douchebag.” Your defense of Hayek (i.e. his political actions and statements in support of Pinochet must be taken as a component of his “biography” distinct from his “ideas,” and to the extent that these things count as “ideas,” they must be addressed as distinct from the overall body of his “ideas”) is being compared in form and structure (not in content) to the aforementioned fascist douchebag’s attempt to distance Mussolini from Hitler.

        After staking your critique of Corey’s arguments so totally to their form and structure no matter how emphatically you are urged to address their underlying content, the discrepancy is very telling.

  6. Peter Mayers June 27, 2013 at 4:05 pm | #


    I think I can see, actually, why Corey’s argument might come across as a strictly ad hominen one — if, that is, one considers only what he writes just above, in this 26th of June entry. But his argument looks fairer, more serious, and more to-the-point (or “saklig”, as one says in Swedish) if one looks at the previous entry as well — the one from the 25th.

    This is one of the hazards of blogging, I would imagine. Rather often, probably, bloggers refer to their own ideas in a highly compressed and shorthand way on any given date, and then rely on their readers to chase down a fuller elaboration of their ideas and concepts by sifting through a larger number of entries.

    • Benjamin David Steele June 27, 2013 at 4:16 pm | #

      One of the failings of blog readers is people like Neffer. A blog post is part of a larger blog. That is the whole point. However, even when Neffer had other posts pointed out to him, he refused to look at them or said they were irrelevant. He is just being a troll at this point.

      • neffer June 27, 2013 at 8:19 pm | #

        A blog post is part of a larger blog. However, a blog is made of discreet elements and, if we ignore the divisions, we can piece things together any way we like. Accordingly, I do not think it quite right to view things as an amorphous blob.

        Now, if one points to specific articles and claims they are closely related, then there is something to speak about. Robin tried that. Peter Mayers notes that above. That is fair. But one needs to be very careful in doing that.

    • neffer June 27, 2013 at 8:21 pm | #

      That’s a fair point, which I shall consider. I have now read two of his pieces, both of which appear to be ad hominem.

      I understand that this all began with a larger article and objections raised to it by third party readers. My comments arise because of Robin’s response to those readers. My view is that his two posts show his objection to be ad hominem. Otherwise, I do not understand why he takes two comments which, in essence, make the same argument I make, which is that the assertions made about Hayek are trivial, if one is speaking to the man’s core beliefs.

      • BarryB June 27, 2013 at 10:35 pm | #

        My Ukrainian grandmother used to say, “Never argue with a drooling fool. He’ll never budge from what he says, no matter how often and simply you put it, and you’ll only end up covered in drool.”

  7. stratplayer June 29, 2013 at 9:31 am | #

    neffer should look up “perseveration.”

    • Benjamin David Steele June 29, 2013 at 10:57 am | #

      I’ll tell you what. That word is as applicable Neffer as a word can be. I’ve come across this kind of thought process before and it is hard to grasp what motivates it.

      Considering Neffer acts so earnest in his repetitiveness, I’ve started to suspect he has Aspergers or something similar. There is a social clulessness and cognitive obtuseness in Neffer that I’ve come across before in people who have claimed to have Aspergers.

      As a clarification, my comment is an observation and not ad hominem argument, a subtle distinction some people can’t comprehend.

      Anyway, that is the most interesting word I’ve come across recently. Thanks for sharing.

      • neffer June 29, 2013 at 1:27 pm | #

        In other words, Mr. Steele, you prefer to insult than to justify your position. You might read my comment on Robin’s other page which takes issue with his original article at The Nation. Nietzsche I have written extensively about elsewhere and, as I note there, Robin employs improper methodology in his interpretation of Nietzsche, a methodology that Nietzsche went to great pains to say is not valid.

      • Benjamin David Steele June 29, 2013 at 3:17 pm | #

        Neffer – Like many others, I respond to you with frustration. I suspect I’m far from the first person or second or third person to make the kind of observations I’ve made. Obviously, just in the recent posts here you’ve had many people respond to you similarly to how I’ve responded. When a wide variety of people keep responding to you the same way, at some point it might be wise to look inward so as to seek insight and self-awareness.

        I don’t care if you feel insulted or not. That is your personal issue. I’m being honest with you here, whether or not you want honesty. I genuinely meant what I said when I spoke of making an observation.

        Your mind obviously doesn’t function quite normally. There is some kind of disconnect. Your dogged pursuit of repeating your thoughts again and again have shown themselves to be belligerent at this point. That is what I meant by social cluelessness (or maybe just ineptness) and cognitive obtuseness.

        At the same time, you appear fairly intelligent and well read. That is why I suspected something like Aspergers. Many Aspergers are highly intelligent, even brilliant. However, Aspergers relates to a difficulty with social understanding and hence social relationships. The disconnect in your thinking is far from indicating low IQ, but there is a constraint on your thinking that you seem unable to see outside of. It’s as if you mind is stuck in a loop.

        I don’t know if you have Aspergers or not. It was just a guess. But for sure your mind doesn’t function quite normally. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration or at least save other people a lot of frustration if you come to terms with this situation.

        Others have pointed out the problems with your criticisms, but it just flies over your head. You even admit to being ignorant of Robin’s work and yet you go on criticizing in ignorance. Your mind working in a less than normal fashion is fine. I actually like people who think differently/alternatively. I don’t judge you for that, but I do judge you for the intellectual failings in your thought process and your unwillingness to deal with your personal problems. Projecting your problems onto others is no way to go through life.

        I won’t hold my breath waiting for you to get a clue. Nothing I say or anyone else says probably will ever phase your pseudo-rationalistic facade..

  8. Red Laud June 29, 2013 at 3:22 pm | #

    American libertarianism is just the stalking horse of fascism.The outline of my thinking is that corporate serfdom aka right-wing libertarianism is the “working as designed” case, for countries where there is no serious political threat to the neoliberal order. through ordinary parliamentary procedure, policy becomes more property-friendly, the immiseration, desperation, and powerlessness of the workers increases, as wealth inequality grows and the wealthy become more powerful and aristocratic. in countries where there is a strong and credible leftist threat to this order, authoritarian tactics are needed to suppress leftist politicians and organized labor.

    some pretty heavy-hitting libertarian theorists have openly advocated against democratic governance of any sort and been openly hostile to democratic ideology. they may grudgingly accept your scenario, but it’s not the preferred scenario. circling it back round to this ubermensch bullshit that peppers a lot of libertarian ideology, i’d figure they’d be more inclined to support something like an aristocratic system that is supremely friendly to capital.

    i have a feeling that these libertarian theorists who say they are actually, irl, for “liberal democracy” are doing so to safe face with the public. there’s no to reconcile their ideas with a democratic society — i’d say even a liberal democratic society.

  9. Corey Robin June 29, 2013 at 3:45 pm | #

    I want to end this back and forth between Neffer and everyone. I don’t want to close the comments thread b/c there are issues here that are much larger and worth debating, but if the discussion continues as it has gone, I’ll either close the thread or ban someone. I’d prefer to do neither.

    • Benjamin David Steele June 29, 2013 at 4:37 pm | #

      As for me, I wasn’t planning on responding to Neffer any further, even before you made a comment.

      How I deal with people like Neffer in my blog is that I warn them to make a relevant point and, if they don’t comply, I block them. If you had done that, then none of the rest would have followed, including most of my comments. Playing referee before a problematic discussion fully develops is easier than trying to stop it after it has already developed.

      It saves a lot of trouble and frustration for all involved. It also increases the level of discussion. This is the problem with an unmoderated comments section. If you moderate even if only in an informal manner, you can prevent it getting to the point of feeling like you have to threaten closing threads and banning people.

      Assuming you like the results of your method, I must admit threats do work. But they don’t tend to make for a pleasant discussion atmosphere conducive to interesting dialogue. You say you’d prefer to do neither and the fact is you don’t need to do either. At the same time, as long as you don’t play referee or otherwise moderate comments, this same situation will arise again and again and again… and you will find yourself threatening again and again and again.

      I doubt that would make you happy or get you the results you want. As a Buddhist would ask, is it useful means?

      Maybe you don’t think its my business, but your response seemed overly adamant after a period of leniently not interceding. You went from one extreme to the other. Is there a reason you don’t like to referee discussions and moderate comments?

      I hope you don’t ban me for asking.

    • Benjamin David Steele June 29, 2013 at 6:01 pm | #

      Out of curiosity, when Neffer in the above comments fairly straightforwardly said that all of your readers are stupid if they don’t see your argument as invalid, why didn’t that elicit from you a threat to ban Neffer or at least give him a warning?

      You even commented in response to that comment made by Neffer. You even went so far as to acknowledge what he said by quoting him as saying, “Even your stupidest readers”. By your stupidest readers, he was meaning all your readers who agree with you or otherwise think your point of view has merit. That isn’t a banishable offense, really?

      When Neffer clarified his point so that you couldn’t mistake his meaning, you gave no response at all. You wouldn’t even defend your own readers who were defending you, why not? Then you threaten your readers with being banned or closing of the comments section. Why not just deal with the problem at its root?

      I want quality discussions, just as you do. Why are you perceiving people like myself as potential enemies, when we seek to defend you and defend ourselves against offensive trolls? I’m not your enemy. The only person around here who wanted to oppose you is Neffer, and his opposition wasn’t even interesting or worthy of being part of the discussion.

      He made an ad hominem attack against you by claiming that all you were doing was ad hominem. Why take such abuse? Are you masochistic?

      I understand you probably have a typical liberal-minded stance. You want to tolerate people as much as possible, even when there is disagreement and even when the person makes irrelevant comments. I share your tolerance, as a general rule. Free speech is important in all venues. I’m sure we share the same values and would want to defend those values. I criticize people like Neffer for the very reason that I share your value of seeking quality discussion.

      It seems like there should be a better way to go about creating and maintaining quality discussion, don’t you think?

      • Corey Robin June 29, 2013 at 6:19 pm | #

        When I mentioned banning commenters, it wasn’t you. The “even your stupidest readers” referent was meant as a comment on the commenter. I can’t always monitor all the comments; I only just dropped in to see what was going on. In any event, I do not see you or your comments as problematic.

      • Benjamin David Steele June 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm | #

        Thanks for responding. I’m glad to see we’re on the same page or a similar page.

        I’m sorry to have contributed to the negative atmosphere. It really really bothers me when this kind of thing comes up. I want to have worthwhile discussion, even debate with genuine disagreement.

        Unfortunately, I’m not good at ignoring people when they don’t share this value or somehow don’t seem to get it. I initially thought I could have a reasonable dialogue with Neffer. I didn’t have any desire to just attack him, but it was so frustrating. He has a mind like a bulldog and he just won’t let go of the point he has got hold of. Under other circumstances, I’m sure he would be an interesting person to talk with. As I pointed out, he appears to be relatively intelligent and well read.

        Why can discussion be so difficult? That is a conundrum too complex for my little Pooh brain. I guess it all just comes with the terrain.

        I’ll try to avoid throwing gasoline on the fire in the future. I really do like your blog to a great degree and don’t want to be responsible for lowering the quality of the discussion. I’ll try to continue to fight the good fight in less combative ways. I’ll do my best to make my comments as worthwhile as possible.

        I’m impressed by how even keel you are able to remain. You are a better man than myself, I suppose. Keep up the good work!

  10. neffer June 30, 2013 at 10:24 am | #

    If I have offended you, Robin, you have my apology.

  11. RMR June 30, 2013 at 12:50 pm | #

    While I can’t claim to have read a lot of Hayek and the Austrian School, I have to say that judging by the comments as well as Robin’s article over a “Jacobin,” this may very well be a case in which knowing a lot more would only confuse me, too.

    My basic question is: what in the world is anybody doing, trying to salvage Hayek’s collaboration–and I do mean “collaboration”–with the likes of Pinochet? Why would it make sense, given how well Hayek’s economic and moral theories dovetailed with Pinochet’s military takeover and subsequent behavior, to try and carefully dissect out all the little tentacles connecting them both?

    The “sense,” as a bit of an outsider seems to be in trying to preserve the theories of the economist who remains the best that the libertarians have to offer. That way, it’s possible that nobody’ll notice that Hayek’s ideas, both domestically and overseas, are more than ever intimately tied into a whole range of ideas&operations that are at best antidemocratic, and often much, much worse.

  12. RMR June 30, 2013 at 1:48 pm | #

    Oh, and I forgot something. It really isn’t a surprise to see that libertarians might scramble to “save the phonomena,’ with regard to Hayek’s ideas about the necessity (or at least usefulness) of dictatorship. It’s more of a dismay to see left-liberalism toying with the same ideas.

    Years ago, I happened to be in a grad seminar when Dollimore and Sinfield dropped by. A friend asked–it fitted the discussion–what a good leftist should do, when the common folks were pursuing policies that were to their detriment, and one had available information that might push them further down the bad street.

    “Why, you lie to them for their own good,” came the reply, which I found appalling then and find appalling now. Bad enough a rightist would say such a thing–worse on the Left, I thought, and something that smelled a lot like the same old Stalinism.

    But what’s wrong with Hayek’s ideas about great men stepping in for the good of people and of history is that however elaborate, clever, or even correct–the important things are…not…the Important People’s…call.

    This isn’t just because one doesn’t care for dictatorships, whether they come from bemedalled generals or the proletariat. It isn’t even because of the appalling examples that Stalinism and a long list of others provide.

    It’s “the people’s,” call, for reasons that I would have thought were so well grounded in Marx as not to need explanation. Instead, one question: who makes history, and how?

    For that matter, who makes economics?

    Allende was democratically elected. And as far as I know, and unlike some other elected leftists, he did not immediately move to seize the TV stations and anything else that might have created difficulties for his regime.

    The prob with these “great men,” theories (and let’s face it, this is just Carlyle come back again) of politics and economics is that once you reduce the complexity and contradiction of human action like that–once you make it the “great man’s,” call, you immediately start warping politics and economics in ways that never seem to work out all that well. And then, of course, you create a nice playing field for all the various manifestations of patriarchy and bureaucracy that others have taken apart far better than I could.

    Or to put this another way: Hayek is really just a smarter, better theoried, Ayn Rand. what’s true of her moral, economic and political insanity is also true of his.

    • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg June 30, 2013 at 8:19 pm | #

      Indeed. Of course, the modern-day followers of Hayek will not take comparison with Ayn Rand to be defamatory. They love Rand too.

  13. Andrew June 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm | #


    It is more insane than even you have realized. Check out Nick Land’s brilliant essay journey through the depths of the libertarian fringe. Not only has libertarianism become the vessel of the extreme right, but it is slowly being outright abandoned in some circles for straight-forward authoritarianism. You can’t make this stuff up:


    (the links are dead, so just scroll down the page to read it)


    “Lind and the ‘neo-reactionaries’ seem to be in broad agreement that democracy is not only (or even) a system, but rather a vector, with an unmistakable direction. Democracy and ‘progressive democracy’ are synonymous, and indistinguishable from the expansion of the state. Whilst ‘extreme right wing’ governments have, on rare occasions, momentarily arrested this process, its reversal lies beyond the bounds of democratic possibility. Since winning elections is overwhelmingly a matter of vote buying, and society’s informational organs (education and media) are no more resistant to bribery than the electorate, a thrifty politician is simply an incompetent politician, and the democratic variant of Darwinism quickly eliminates such misfits from the gene pool.”

    ” Because ‘whiteness’ is a limit (pure absence of color), it slips smoothly from the biological factuality of the Caucasian sub-species into metaphysical and mystical ideas. Rather than accumulating genetic variation, a white race is contaminated or polluted by admixtures that compromise its defining negativity – to darken it is to destroy it. The mythological density of these — predominantly subliminal – associations invests white identity politics with a resilience that frustrates enlightened efforts at rationalistic denunciation, whilst contradicting its own paranoid self-representation. It also undermines recent white nationalist promotions of a racial threat that is strictly comparable to that facing indigenous peoples, universally, and depicting whites as ‘natives’ cruelly deprived of equal protection against extinction. “

    • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg July 1, 2013 at 8:43 am | #

      Remove the invective and the analysis is essentially historically correct. More democracy leads to more equality, over time. This was recognized and stated very famously by James Madison.

      “In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability.”

    • Benjamin David Steele July 1, 2013 at 8:02 pm | #

      Jeez, that is some tough reading. Some parts of it were interesting, but the author seemed a bit too in love with his own voice. It didn’t get particularly interesting for me until well into Part 4. Even so, if you can stick with it or skim through it, there is some nuggets of insight worthy of being dug out.

  14. RMR June 30, 2013 at 9:32 pm | #

    What I find a tad disturbing is that, without having argued this sort of thing in a decade or more, and spending plenty of time with science fiction and intellectual bottom-feeding, I recognize far too much that has been gussied up with partly-understood theory.

    “Whiteness,” just for openers, ain’t a limit. It’s a zero degree, the Greenwich meridian, the reference point that makes a certain system possible that cannot be incorporated within the system as its center, for the simple reason that its avowal would expose the system as a fantasy, a fantasy with all too many material effects.

    Nor is “bribery,” the proper term to describe the cover-up. Even “repressive desublimation,” doesn’t describebwhat happens as to describe what happens becomes a way of guaranteeing that nobody gives a hoot.

    It’s enough to make you think that Guy Debord’s first page in what remains the cheapest theory worth buying was all ye know, and all ye need to know.

    • Andrew July 1, 2013 at 8:25 pm | #

      Nick Land is definitely one of those professors who gets carried away with po mo jargon (this was light reading by his standard, try pouring through his thoughts on Deleuze and capitalist-accelerationism). Yeah, but none of this was science fiction, these libertarian reactionaries really exist and they occupy an odd corner of the blogosphere and infiltrate mainstream discourse.

      • Benjamin David Steele July 1, 2013 at 8:34 pm | #

        Yeah, I’d definitely recommend reading it… for the right kind of person. It’s just not the type of writing that would appeal to most people or be easily read by most people if they tried. Even I would have to be in the precise right mood to really get into that kind of writing. Although I can handle it, a bit of brevity and clarity would’ve been nice. I think I won’t pour through his thoughts on Deleuze and capitalist-accelerationism… but thanks for offering. 🙂

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