Turns out a friend of mine reads The Economist. Upon discovering this somewhat disturbing information, I started paying a bit more attention to the publication than usual (I usually only go there if linked, which PK does on occasion). At some point, I mentioned to my friend that I hated the fact that either no name at all was provided (print edition) or only initials were provided (online posts). This surprised him: Why would I want to know who wrote the article? Because, I explained: How else can you know what think tanks or publications the author is associated with? This clearly hadn't occurred to him and then we started talking about the Kochs, who he hadn't heard of...anyway, I decided to take a closer look.
And sure enough - I just barely scratched the surface and up popped Koch-whore Will Wilkinson (W.W.), a regular blogger for The Economist. Just a small-town Ayn Rand devotee doing what he can to debunk that silly inequality rumor (he has several "specialties," including union-bashing, but I decided to focus on his income inequalilty denialism).
As the eXile details (although with significantly more color than I'm including below), Will Wilkinson is really like a caricature of a Koch whore. Here's Will describing his Randian conversion:
I’d been excited by Bill Clinton in the 1992 Democratic convention and was toying with voting for him. Then I read Atlas Shrugged. I began reading the libertarian canon and I voted for Andre Marrou that Fall. I started paying more attention to my philosophy classes than my art classes. Ayn Rand is why I almost became an academic philosopher, why I became a libertarian, and why I work at Cato.
Touching really. Just a boy and his dream of corporate domination. Actually, this too-common story reminds me of a joke I heard from Paul Krugman:
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
Sadly, W.W. did not discover Lord of the Rings. He drank the Randian Kool-Aid, which set him up for a middling career (he's no Tyler Cowen, for example) as a propagandist for our country's most well-known oligarchical activists, the Kochs:
[B]efore working for the [Koch-funded] Cato Institute, Wilkinson drew his paycheck from the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University. . . . Before his stint at Mercatus, Wilkinson sucked on yet another Koch foundation teat, working as a director at the Institute for Humane Studies, also headquartered also at George Mason University.
I often wonder why someone would spend their career as a oligarchical propagandist, toeing the corporate line at the expense of the poor, the environment, whatever. I mean how do these people sleep at night? The clearest explanation I've ever heard came from Jonathan Schwarz, who was explaining Megan McArdle's defense - yes defense! - of Goldman Sach's securities fraud:
As a primate, Megan McArdle has certain powerful instincts, and one of those instincts is: the head monkeys of my tribe are always right.
McArdle isn't a "libertarian," or "right-wing," or "conservative." She's just someone who's on the side of whoever has the money and guns. If she'd been born in 1932 in the Soviet Union, she would have been a hardcore communist and an editor at Pravda who burned with hatred for the merciless imperialist capitalists. If she'd been born in the Soviet Union in 1972, she'd now be a fervent Putinite writing angry articles about the conspiracy theories of Anna Politkovskaya. If she'd been born in Egypt, she would have written press releases for Hosni Mubarak.
A certain percentage of humans just have this instinct, and there's no point in getting mad at them . . . . You might as well get angry at the tide for coming in.
Will Wilkinson is one such primate. Currently, he spends his time trying to please the head monkeys by by blogging for The Economist. Let's look at his recent work there (with a focus on his income inequality propaganda).
The following is a fair sample (though not at all exhaustive) of Will's contribution to the emerging pseudo science of income inequality denialism. What's telling, in my opinion, is the variety of approaches. He variously argues: 1) inequality isn’t as bad as people lead you to believe; 2) even if it is in terms of dollars, it’s not in terms of how people experience it; 3) we’re not measuring it properly; 4) anyone who says income inequality exists and/or is a problem is sloppy, lazy or partisan; or 5) there’s nothing we can do about inequality (much as we’d like to). In the process, he smears a number of economic and political science heavy weights, including at least two Nobel Laureates (Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman).
I would have to say my personal favorite is W.W.'s unfavorable review of a book he admittedly hadn't read (Hacker & Pierson, Winner-Take-All Politics). No need to read the book - Hacker and Pierson say inequality is a problem (and a solvable problem, at that). The head monkeys clearly wouldn't like that.
9:51 PM PT: Thanks to fellow Kossak JC for pointing out an error (which he generously identified as a typo). Diary has been corrected.