Paradise Lost and Unfounded


Among the standard-issue slurs hurled by the right is that liberals engage in social engineering. That is, liberals want o use government to impose an impractical, unrealistic and costly utopian vision of society on down-to earth, sensible conservatives.

But in North Carolina, it’s conservatives pursuing a libertarian utopia doing the engineering. And since libertarians couldn’t get North Carolina to vote for a government that would do it, they had to buy one. Enter Art Pope, Gov. Pat McCrory’s new budget director.

Pope is, for all intents and purposes, North Carolina’s third, lesser known, Koch brother. In fact, he’s attended the Koch Brothers’ planning summits and considers himself their close ally.

In 2010, Pope’s organizations spent $2.2 million on 22 state legislature races, and won 18 of them. In fact, outside groups backed by Pope accounted for 75 percent of independent spending in those races. In 2012, Pope and his affiliated groups again spent more than $2 million on the election, leading to a Republican supermajority in the General Assembly, and putting McCrory in the governor’s mansion.

If it feels as if you’re no longer in Kansas, maybe it’s because you’re in Art Pope’s North Carolina. Welcome to Oz. (Mind the flying monkeys.)

“Why are there no libertarian countries?” Michael Lind asked last week in Salon. “If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century is organized along libertarian lines?”

Lind wants to know. Really.

If libertarianism was a good idea, wouldn’t at least one country have tried it? Wouldn’t there be at least one country, out of nearly two hundred, with minimal government, free trade, open borders, decriminalized drugs, no welfare state and no public education system?

E.J. Dionne followed up in his Washington Post column on Monday, observing that the closet the U.S. ever came to came to such a libertarian paradise was about a century ago.

We had something close to a small-government libertarian utopia in the late 19th century and we decided it didn’t work. We realized that many Americans would never be able to save enough for retirement and, later, that most of them would be unable to afford health insurance when they were old. Smaller government meant that too many people were poor and that monopolies were formed too easily. And when the Great Depression engulfed us, government was helpless, largely handcuffed by this anti-government ideology until Franklin D. Roosevelt came along.

Working together, an empowered middle class tuned the 20th Century into the American Century. The Greatest Generation. Superhighways. Desegregation. Voting rights. Satellite communications. Medicare. Men on the Moon. Your children living better than you did. The expansion of rights. More than freedom. The promise of equality regardless of race, creed, color, and more. For everyone.

Except it wasn’t for everyone. Certain Americans have been trying to undo that legacy for decades. Art Pope and his “brothers,” for example. Or Buncombe County’s Rep. Tim Moffitt:

Moffitt:”They typically try to rewrite history. They typically misinform the public intentionally about that history and this has been going on since the great depression.” [Emphasis mine.]

What the New Deal started really sticks in their craws, doesn’t it? That’s the American Century they’ve been trying to unmake for decades.

It wasn’t utopia. But it wasn’t the libertarian jungle, either.


  1. Slightly tangent-topic.

    Another crispy critter falls off the rolling deepfryer:

    Rucho resigns as finance chairman over tax disagreement

    My favorite line:

    “Berger replied to Rucho via his own letter Thursday, saying only that he refused to accept Rucho’s resignation.”

    “Get back in the cooker, boy!!