Stopped Clock: Jason Brennan Gets It Right on the Niskanen Center

If you ignore the well-poisoning horseshit he dishes out against Will Wilkinson, Jason Brennan manages, for once, to get something right: Jerry Taylor really is a hypocritical asshole for firing Will Wilkinson from the Niskanen Center, and, in consequence, the Niskanen Center should, as Brennan says, be boycotted (see Brennan’s post for details).

In addition, I think Brennan is right to put some pressure on Niskanen’s erstwhile supporters to stop supporting the Center. That’s what solidarity is, and how it works. Either you side with Will, or you side with Taylor, or you remain neutral because you’re in a position to be neutral. The latter gambit is not available to those who have supported Niskanen in the past, and intend to do so in the future. They have to make an autonomous, moralized decision one way or another. Do they support institutionalized hypocrisy, or do they support journalistic integrity? It really is that simple.

It should go without saying that I support Will, and wouldn’t mind seeing the Niskanen Center collapse into a heap of dust after what they’ve done. The deeper question here, I suppose, is why cowardly, hypocritical behavior is so endemic to the political Right, including the centrist Right. Does the ideology cause immorality, or does immorality predispose to the ideology? Or is some third factor involved?

In any case, this episode is one more proof, if any was needed, that character matters as much to politics as avowals of belief in “policy.” What people say, whether about policy or anything else, and what they do when the chips are down, are two very different things. To evaluate the former in abstraction from any knowledge of the latter is a fool’s errand. There’s no shortage of fools out there running them.

No matter what sounds come out of Jerry Taylor’s mouth, or how his claims appear to track the truth on policy (when they do), he’s now revealed his inner asshole, inner coward, and inner hypocrite in a conspicuously public way. That should serve to discredit him and his organization. To pretend at this point that “all that matters is Niskanen’s getting policy right” (when it does) is to ignore what policy is for. Policy serves justice. If the people who make policy don’t serve justice, or don’t even know what it is, the policies they claim to fashion can’t be trusted to do so, either. Firing Will was, after all, a policy statement. If they can’t get that right, don’t expect them to get anything else right. Ignore them, and move on.

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