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The Lee Doren question

2 June 2009 by Mike Gogulski
Posted in activism, people | 10 Comments »

In reply to a message from Fred Smith, President and Founder of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which owns Bureaucrash:

(original message follows, as it is posted within the walled garden of Bureaucrash Social, at my profile there)

Dear Fred,

Thanks a lot for writing to me, and elucidating some of the strategic thinking going on at CEI that has not been directly accessible to crashers.

As to whether or not CEI is being true to its values, I cannot know. I am personally well acquainted with neither the organization, its people nor its strategy, just, rather, with the Bureaucrash community, and that, even, for only the past year.

I agree completely that libertarianism is a big tent — one, indeed, I wish were better populated. Within that big tent, however, you will find me and some others propping up a radical pole which emerges both from what our definitions of liberty are as well as a devotion to consistency. Standing, as it were, at the back of that tent, some of us are often leery of folks who seem to come blundering through the door out of left field.

I agree with you very strongly that property rights, contract and the rule of law (with definitional qualifications not worth mentioning) are essential to a free society. I personally will differ, perhaps fundamentally, with you, however, on the notion that America is “one of the best hopes” for realizing that today, if it ever was. America is not exceptional except in the mythology promulgated by its partisans, with the reservation that it is, in fact, quite exceptional to hundreds of millions of people around the world — exceptionally evil.

The broader strategic issue you raise is one of considerable import to an organization such as yours. Funds must be allocated, campaigns conducted, activity focused, and all of that done in such a way as to convince the organization’s members, funders and supporters that effort is being expended in the best way possible. That there are people passionately committed, in the name of liberty, to doing these things — at CEI and elsewhere — is cause for celebration.

What seems to emerge here, though, is that Bureaucrash has over its history coalesced and grown a group of energetic activists coming from all over the libertarian landscape. Perhaps the most influential of these have tended toward identification less with the strategic concerns of the day than with devotion to a radical consistency: liberty, now, for all, forever, without compromise.

The appointment of Lee Doren as Crasher-in-Chief, in my mind, is problematic for two reasons: ideology and approach. Large chunks of Lee’s expressed ideology are in direct conflict with that of large segments of Bureaucrash’s most influential members, among whom I seem to surprisingly find myself by virtue of your addressing this message to me. Additionally, Lee’s approach has caused immediate distrust among those members of his person, his ideology and his plans while casting shadows over CEI’s devotion to liberty and its intent in hiring him.

It remains for you and your colleagues to determine whether or not Lee can effectively continue the freedom activism which has gone on at, been nurtured by and been spun off from the Bureaucrash community — or, indeed, whether that concern is germane to CEI’s broader strategic goals. Since you are no doubt aware of the majority negative reaction to the appointment, I will simply add my own voice as an unambiguous footnote:

Remove Lee Doren as Crasher-in-Chief. He will not succeed in this role.

Best regards,
Mike Gogulski
Bratislava, Slovakia


Dear Mike:

Libertarianism and (more broadly) classical liberalism or economic/market liberlaism is a large tent. You’ll have to make your own judgments as to whether CEI has (or has not) been true to its values but (in my perhaps biased view) I do believe we have.

What are those principles? In my view, the core element is that civilization is best advanced by the co-evolution of freedom and the instittuions that ensure the responsible use of that freedom. Property rights (definable, defensible and divestible), enforceable voluntary agreements and (more generally) the rule of law are the core pillars on which free societies are built. Civilization can be viewed as the gradual emergence of these institutons of liberty which permit more of the peoples of the world to engage in voluntary exchange, to advance their own dreams. America – with its many drawbacks, more today than ever — remains one of the best hopes of that process continuing. Thus, the need to mount an inclusive outreach effort to develop the forces that might best combat these trends.

The values of liberty have long been under attack but the severity of that attack has massively increased in recent years as statists have taken advantage of the financial collapse (see Bob Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan for earlier examples) to gain power. Liberty is indivisble but the two main components are economic and civil liberties – sometimes one is more under attack, sometimes the other. My judgment (others may disagree) is that today, the battleground is predominantly (for the issues that CEI was formed to address) lie in the nationalization of great sectors of the American economy, the rapid growth of the entitlement redistributionist state (non-sustainable, of course), and the rapid shift from the “honest” socialism of the past to the “regulatory” (and much more difficult to combat) socialism of today. Thus, CEI – and i believe – Bureaucrash need to address those concerns.

Is this wrong?

Fred Smith

  1. 10 Responses to “The Lee Doren question”

  2. By Pete Eyre on 2 June 2009

    Thanks for taking the time to write and post this Mike. You noted:

    “Large chunks of Lee’s expressed ideology are in direct conflict with that of large segments of Bureaucrash’s most influential members, among whom I seem to surprisingly find myself by virtue of your addressing this message to me. Additionally, Lee’s approach has caused immediate distrust among those members of his person, his ideology and his plans while casting shadow’s over CEI’s devotion to liberty and its intent in hiring him.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Keep fighting the good fight my friend.

    -Pete

  3. By Jason Talley on 2 June 2009

    State or no, you’re the man Mike.

  4. By Free State Project on 2 June 2009

    Big tent? So much so that you lose your core values?

    I liked Crash the way it was. I used to hand out Crash cards ALL the time… will I in the future? Depends. Should have let Pete take BCrash on the road!

    Time for people to move to the Free State!

  5. By Chris Lempa on 2 June 2009

    CEI is a beltway think tank. They put out some good material, but at the end of the day they are a beltway think tank. Their positions are generally political. They seem to want to sneak the “libertarian message” into the GOP establishment. Hence Lee was a perfect choice.

    Lee is a Republican. . .we know this. CEI saw an up and coming star in the blogosphere and wanted to snatch him up. He’s young, has a popular youtube channel, and has a knack for copying Colbert. Why wouldn’t those young whipersnappers at Bureaucrash like him?

    Enough of my tedious rambling. My point is, why was anyone surprised?

    Now is a good time to read Darian Worden’s excellent essay on propaganda.

  6. By DL on 2 June 2009

    CEI, much like the CATO and Ayn Rand Institute, can not be trusted. Much like Bob Barr destroying the LP, this seems like a hijacking trend. What next, the Free State Project?

  7. By Aaron Kinney on 2 June 2009

    “What next, the Free State Project?”

    Now THATS a scary thought :(

  8. By Black Bloke on 4 June 2009

    If the local GOP ever gets wind that the FSP institutions can be co-opted to get them unearned support they will do it. As long as care is taken to who they ally with to oppose Shaheen, Lynch, the NHDP etc. then they have a chance to come out clean.

    Harder than it sounds when personalities, and trust, and friendships are thrown in the mix.

  9. By Farhan on 30 September 2009

    The impression that I get is that Lee is more of a Republican than a Libertarian.

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  3. 18 June 2009: An Apology and a Promotion « The Examined Life

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