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Libertarians Fail To See Clear Threat That Donald Trump Poses to the Neoliberal Order

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It’s not just libertarians who primarily try to sell to the left that like Trump. Which shouldn’t be surprising, because the thing about libertarian economics and authoritarian tendencies is that they go together like Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand:

The evolution of the Koch brothers’ disposition toward Trump can be traced in headlines measuring their gradual warming. See February 2016: “Can the Koch Brothers Stop Trump?”; January 31, 2017: “The Koch Brothers Are Worried About President Trump”; May 18, 2017: “The Koch Brothers Found One Thing They Hate More Than President Trump”; and, now, to the present: “How the Koch Network Learned to Thrive in the Trump Era.”

The latest development in the relationship between the Kochs (right-wing heirs to a business fortune) and Trump (also the right-wing heir to a business fortune) is that the former have thrown the weight of their massive organization unhesitatingly behind the latter. Largely satisfied with Trump’s conservative judicial appointments, lax regulation of business, and regressive tax cutting, the Kochs are spending several hundred millions of dollars to protect the Republican majority. Whatever points of contention remain between the two have been reduced to squabbles between friends.

The Koch rapprochement mirrors a broader trend: Among the conservative intelligentsia — where resistance to Trump has always run far deeper than it has among the Republican rank and file — libertarians have displayed some of the greatest levels of friendliness to the Trump administration. The Wall Street Journal editorial page is a bastion of pro-Trump conspiracy-theorizing about nefarious deep-state plots, in addition to celebrations of the administration’s economic record. Grover Norquist, Stephen Moore, and Ron and Rand Paul, among others, have all staunchly defended the president.

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The now-close working partnership is not as surprising as it might appear. Before the election, I argued that the Republican party was evolving into a synthesis of libertarian ends and authoritarian means. The party’s core elites were motivated by an economic agenda that bore little support among the voting public. Indeed, libertarians have understood this problem for decades; many of them see democracy as a process that enables the majority to gang up on the rich minority and carry out legalized theft through redistribution. Their highest notion of liberty entails the protection of property rights from the democratic process, and they have historically been open to authoritarian leaders who will protect their policy agenda.

Call me crazy, but I’m beginning to think that the Trump administration might not be the end of the Reagan coalition on the right.

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