Will Wilkinson: Libertard With Sadditude
Ever since Yasha and I first broke the story about the Koch brothers financing the Tea Party Campaign in February of 2009–a scoop that the New Yorker plagiarized from us a mere 18 months later, waytago fellas!–ever since then, I’ve been wondering: Have all those billions that the Brothers Koch invested into their libertarian brain-washing project paid off?
The answer: You betcha.
Let me demonstrate how the Kochs’ investment into libertarianism has paid off by way of a near-stroke experience I just had a couple of days ago. There I was, just wasting time on Reddit, when I came across one of those beyond-idiotic-and-evil headlines that bite you if you’re not careful: “Is rising inequality in America exaggerated?” The headline linked to an article in The Economist.
H’m, is inequality exaggerated? Gosh, let me get my ol’ chin-scratching machine out for this one…
Naturally, I did the exact wrong thing and clicked the headline, which brought me to an Economist article titled, “The Inequality Myth: Is Rising Inequality in America Exaggerated?” It was an oddly meat-headed headline for The Economist–usually that magazine’s formula is to zap the reader with somewhat more nuanced right-wing shock value, counteracted with elitist irony and know-it-all charm. Not this time:
SLATE’S Timothy Noah has just wrapped up a ten-part series on the rise of economic inequality in America. Most of Mr Noah’s instalments are devoted to examining the impact of one of the usual suspects—immigration, trade, de-unionisation, education, executive pay, etc—on the level of inequality in the United States. I found Mr Noah’s series disappointing from the start because he failed squarely to confront recent findings that challenge the premise of his exercise.
Many popular narratives about inequality are grounded on the alleged fact that wages and incomes at the middle and bottom of the distribution have been stagnant for decades. It appears that this, too, may be an artefact of insufficiently sophisticated methods for building the price indices used to calculate rates of inflation.
The author of this Economist blog post, identified as “W.W.”, sounded nothing like one of those sly Economist correspondents I’ve known in the past, and everything like a typical ham-fisted right-wing libertarian, the sort that are a dime a dozen in this country. So I wondered: Are the Kochs debasing even their own natural propaganda ally, The Economist, by dumbing it down with one of their own Koch-sponsored libertard meatheads? Who was this “W.W.”?
Well, one giant clue that “W.W.” left us was his strange decision to give just one compliment to Noah’s 10-part investigation: “W.W.” praised Noah for mentioning a Cato Institute shill named Alan Reynolds. Cato Institute? H’m, gee, gosh. The billionaire Koch brothers founded the Cato Institute in 1977 as the first libertarian think-tank, so compliments like this to a Cato Institute tool are nothing more than kickbacks in this sordid business. That Cato pays Alan Reynolds’s rent is telling: Reynolds is a crusty old libertarian hack from the 70s who claims to be the forgotten “Fifth Beatle” of supply-side economists, the under-appreciated Reaganomics revolutionary who would be residing in the “Where are they now?” file of supply-side history but for the largesse of the Koch brothers. Apparently this means that the Cato Institute doubles as a nursing home for washed-up libertarian whores like Reynolds too feeble to fight on the front lines of FoxNews, but who are important enough to keep around as examples of how libertarians who fight the Kochs’ fight will be taken care of even in feeble old age. Reynolds demonstrates to current and future libertarian shills that they really do have a sellout-to-grave payoff deal with the Kochs, that they won’t be abandoned to the dreaded free market in vulnerable old age. They will always have a place in the multi-billion-dollar-funded libertarian nomenklatura.
So how does this directly relate to “W.W.”? No surprises here, folks: turns out “W.W.” is “Will Wilkinson.” And wouldn’tcha know it, Will Wilkinson has spent the past several years on the payroll of–ta-dum!— the Cato Institute. Where Wilkinson earned himself years of nice fat paychecks churning out horseshit that can only be described as “Inequality Denial” propaganda: the Kochs have been paying Wilkinson to churn out propaganda denying America’s worsening wealth and income gap, and he’s come through for them. (The Kochs, owners of the nation’s largest privately-held oil company, are also are the leading funders of Climate Change Denial propaganda). Inequality Denial is a much tougher sell than Climate Change Denial, because unlike climate change, which is still comparatively abstract, today’s wealth gap is painfully tangible to the 90 percent or so of Americans who’ve been getting fucked over the past three decades. Which is why it’s also a High Priority PR job, when you consider that the Koch brothers have a combined wealth of $35 billion…or that the Walton family, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, are together worth more than the bottom 100 million Americans’ wealth combined. Which pretty much makes us a “republica bananera” already–and as such, this banana republic has its share of oligarch-monkeys, monkeys like Will Wilkinson.
Most Americans still have too much dignity to shill that low for the billionaires–telling newly-impoverished Americans that they’ve never had it better. But not Will Wilkinson; for him, the destruction of the middle-class to enrich the billionaire class was just another event, another opportunity to prove to Master Koch that “W.W.” belonged inside the plantation mansion–in the butler’s quarters–and not out there in the miserable slave cabins with the rest of us parasites.
The Kochs have been passing around their libertarian whore Wilkinson for awhile now, and getting a lot of mileage out of their investment: before the Cato Institute, Wilkinson drew his paycheck from the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Mercatus Center is so flush with Koch cash these days that they’re now able to buy up much of the first-rate talent graduating from American economics programs (if “talent” and “economics” can be put in the same sentence). The rise of Mercatus’ ability to buy out talent has been good for the Kochs, but a little rougher on second-stringers like Wilkinson, a Northern Illinois University grad who couldn’t finish his PhD degree at Maryland. So a few years ago, Wilkinson was eventually transfered out of the Mercatus Center and over to the Cato Institute pasture alongside ol’ “Supply Side” Reynolds and other libertarian misfits whom the Kochs needed to take care of, and protect from having to face the awful free-market that’s fucked over the rest of us. 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. Wilkinson’s job at the Kochs’ Institute for Humane Studies was recruiting and nurturing future libertarian podlings.
The biography of Will Wilkinson, like that of just about every member of the libertarian nomenklatura, is so caricatured, so totally devoid of surprises and curve-balls, that you almost have to admire how tightly controlled the Libertarian Assembly Line is–the only equivalent that comes to mind is the Soviet Union’s Communist Party vetting machine: from Young Pioneer to Komsomol to Communist Party member, they constantly vetted, tested and promoted the most useful shills, along with the elite’s children, to create a power-elite class that lasted 80 years, at the expense of the rest of the suffering country.
As an example of just how robotic and predictable the libertarian nomenklatura is, and how similar they are to their old Commie counterparts, guess what thinker changed Will Wilkinson’s life? Actually, don’t try guessing: Ayn Rand, that’s the answer every time, just as Lenin was the answer every time in the Soviet Union. Here’s Wilkinson’s own account of his Rand epiphany:
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.
That’s almost funny, in a National Lampoon’s Libertarian Vacation sort of way. But we all know that the real joke’s on us, and it’s sly little bastards like Wilkinson that are doing the real laughing here–all the way to the government-subsidized billionaire boss, Massa’ Koch.
I see now what the problem’s been all along with us “elitists”: We dismissed Rand too easily because we made the mistake of judging her on her intellectual and writing abilities, which were slapstick funny at best– if you think putting a crazy baglady from Russia babbling about “Objective rational truth” as head of the most powerful cult in America counts as National Lampoon comedy–which it would be, if we weren’t forced to be extras in that comedy.
But that was our mistake, my fellow elitists: Taking a crazy old baglady like Ayn Rand at face value. We weren’t considering what her practical value was in an ideologically corrupt country like ours. We didn’t see the angle. An ambitious, frustrated flyover baby like Wilkinson saw Rand much more clearly: Rand was his ticket out of the flat dead-end life in Northern Illinois or Northern Iowa or whatever bumfuck Hellhole he’d have been stuck in. Practically the only way a provincial nobody like Wilkinson has to escape this dead-end life in wage-squeezed Middle America is the same way Stendhal’s Julien Sorel escaped provincial France: adopt the billionaire’s religion, enter the Randroid clergy (Wilkinson was an “Objectivist” scholar with a Master’s in Philosophy from Northern Illinois University), and work your way up the ladder by cynically proving your usefulness to the aristocracy. The payoff for becoming a Randroid makes it all worth it: hicks like Wilkinson can become card-carrying members of the billionaire-funded libertarian nomenklatura, the only well-paying, graduation-to-grave gig remaining for America’s intellectuals. Decades of successfully “defunding the Left” has left America with only one solvent ideology flush enough to support a nomenklatura. That’s the long-and-short of how Rand equals career opportunity for hick opportunists like Will Wilkinson.
To give credit where credit’s due, Wilkinson calculated correctly. His investment in the Rand clergy paid off: Wilkinson became a privileged member of the libertarian nomenklatura. And once Will Wilkinson was allowed in the libertarian nomenklatura, guess who became his bestest libertarian pal in the world? Yup, our old friend Megan McArdle of The Atlantic Monthly. They’re joined at the Ayn Rand hip, you see: before McArdle blogged for the Atlantic, she ran her own blog, Jane Galt–cuz you know, John Galt’s a guy, but Jane Galt is like the female equivalent, and Megan McArdle is a female…well, it bowls ’em over in the libertarian circles, you wouldn’t understand because you’re probably a socialist parasite.
Readers of The eXiled might recall McArdle’s failed attempt to discredit our article exposing the billionaire Kochs and FreedomWorks as the real backers of the Tea Party Campaign. Yeah, that’s Will Wilkinson’s best libertard friend. Being in the nomenklatura with Megan means Wilkinson gets fairytale perks like guest-blogging on Megan McArdle’s blog during her hectic wedding week earlier this year, when Megan married a young libertarian named Peter Suderman–who works at the Koch-funded libertarian magazine, Reason. (Before that, Peter worked for FreedomWorks, designing their fake-grassroots campaign protesting federal aid to distressed homeowners. Wonderful people, all of them.).
Speaking of marriage, Will Wilkinson displayed an oddly hostile attitude towards marriages in general while guest-blogging on the decidedly pro-marriage Megan McArdle’s blog. That’s just Wilkinson’s hick Randroid side coming out: you know how hillbillies get carried away with whatever religion they’re tricked into adopting. Even after getting that prized induction into the libertarian nomenklatura, Wilkinson never could quite calibrate when to be a Randroid ass, and when to dispense with it and just enjoy his new life among the privileged libertarian elite. So it was that one week after Wilkinson logged onto Megan’s blog snarling about the foolishness of marriage ceremonies, he took it a step further by attacking a “friend” of his, the libertarian economist Bryan Caplan. Followers of the libertarian nomenklatura might recognize Caplan’s name since he’s on the Koch payroll at the Mercatus Center–where Will Wilkinson once drew his paychecks.
How did the two of them end up liber-brawling? What set off the great Wilkinson-Caplan falling-out wasn’t because Caplan said that American citizens should have their voting rights restricted because they’re too “irrational,” as Caplan has argued in his books and articles; nor was it because Caplan insisted that unemployed Americans are too stupid to understand what a great thing unemployment is for them–and therefore should not expect unemployment insurance– as Caplan has insisted. Nope, that’d be too obvious for Wilkinson to oppose that, which he wouldn’t anyway because they agree on all those points. These guys are mavericks, folks–the sorts of mavericks who live off their billionaire masters, Charles and David Koch.
So instead of arguing over anything substantive, Wilkinson and Caplan disagreed over the value of children.
See, Wilkinson wrote a giant paper for the Cato Institute arguing that one’s personal happiness is inversely proportional to the number of children one has–like a Laffer Curve for supply-side pediatrics, Wilkinson’s study, backed by Cato, concluded that full happiness is achieved on the graph at precisely zero children. For some reason Caplan–who has argued that unemployment is a good thing for the unemployed, and that American voters are too “irrational” to know what’s good for them in fiscal and economic policy, so therefore the Constitution should be amended barring voters from having any say over any fiscal or economic matter at all, period–this same Caplan was actually offended by Willkinson’s anti-child paper. Like I said, they’re a bunch of fucking weirdos.
Weirdos in the biggest and best-funded cult in America. And like a true cultist, Will Wilkinson has been in a “domestic partnership” with another cultist, Kerry Howley, who draws her paycheck from–yup, you guessed it–Massa’ Koch. In Kerry Howley’s case, she’s spent several years writing for the Koch-funded Reason magazine (the same magazine where Megan McArdle’s husband works, omigod!).
Not all libertarians are happy with the power-libertard couple. Some have even complained about “Wilkinson-Howley shoving their abhorrent lifestyle down my throat”–a reference not only to the partners’ mutual hatred of children (because children would get in the way of the libertarian couple’s happiness), but also to Howley’s sordid publicly-shared experience selling 12 of her ovary eggs to a couple in Chicago a few years ago, which she described in clinical detail for Reason, probably so that Massa Koch could enjoy reading about her eggs while he kicks back in his Park Avenue apartment… Howley earned $10,000 for selling those eggs to the Chicago couple, which may sound like a lot of money to the 99 percent of us fucked by free-market ideology, but not to someone who lives in a 9000 square-foot apartment at 740 Park Avenue–the most expensive address in America–like Kerry Howely’s sponsor David Koch. Hell at a mere $10,000 for a dozen eggs, the Kochs could literally buy millions of indebted female eggs with their wealth, and farm their own army of libertarian slaves–although they’re already doing that successfully enough, and it’s probably just cheaper buying people like Wilkinson and Howley rather than harvesting all those eggs Alien-style, and raising the little monsters from birth.
And Howley delivers the free-market goods: She does her best to show that she wasn’t bothered a lick by being treated like a human farm animal when she sold her eggs. But try telling Howley that her generation is struggling from too much student loan debt and too few job opportunities, and the Kerry Howley libertarian knives come out. According to Howley, only whiners talk that way–whiners and elitists, of course, because libertards really do hate their elitists just as much as the next libertard. Here’s Kerry Howley snarling at her whiny generation in a 2006 article headlined “Poor Little Rich Kids”:
Will Wilkinson (left, slouching) and Kerry Howley (center, leaning on bar like a butch cowboy): Yup, “abhorrent” is a word that comes to mind.
Every successful couple shares something deep within their souls, an unspoken connection that binds them together: the Wilkinson-Howley domestic partnership shares a sordid eagerness to betray their own in the service of Master Koch, so that he may throw a few more gold coins their way.
Here is Wilkinson in December 2007, denying America has an income inequality problem, and celebrating the spiritual and material riches shared by all in an article headlined “The new (improved) Gilded Age”:
There is little evidence that high levels of income inequality lead down a slippery slope to the destruction of democracy and rule by the rich. The unequal political voice of the poor can be addressed only through policies that actually work to fight poverty and improve education. Income inequality is a dangerous distraction from the real problems: poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and systemic injustice.
In other words, poverty is its own problem, totally separate from concentrated wealth. The two have nothing in common–hell, they’ve never even seen each other before! So stop paying attention to all the obscene wealth coveted by a few hundred Americans like Massa’s Charles Koch ‘n’ David Koch and their combined $35 billion, and just concentrate on poverty, will ya?! And hey let’s look on the bright side:
[T]oday’s Gilded Age income gaps do not imply Gilded Age lifestyle gaps. On the contrary, those intrepid souls who make vast fortunes turning out ever higher-quality goods at ever lower prices widen the income gap while reducing the differences that matter most.
See? You may be getting “poorer” by the Old Economy metrics–you know, things like income, assets, money, debts, whatever dude…But try thinking outside of the box (the cardboard box you live in, that is): If you measure the gap between you and someone just as fucked as you…well, think about it. What’s income anyway? And what is inequality? It’s just a state of mind, man…
Last year–in the middle of the deepest depression since the 1930s, Wilkinson synthesized years of research denying inequality’s existence and published it through the Cato institute. This guy has literally focused his entire life these past two years towards denying the existence of an income inequality problem. Here is the abstract:
Recent discussions of economic inequality, marked by a lack of clarity and care, have confused the public about the meaning and moral significance of rising income inequality. Income statistics paint a misleading picture of real standards of living and real economic inequality. Several strands of evidence about real standards of living suggest a very different picture of the trends in economic inequality. In any case, the dispersion of incomes at any given time has, at best, a tenuous connection to human welfare or social justice.
Speaking of social justice, this story has a happy ending: The Cato Institute recently liberated Will Wilkinson from the inefficiencies of billionaire servitude, freeing him to venture out into the free-market. In other words, he was fired. I repeat: he was fired. One version has it that Wilkinson was canned because another Cato scholar he was close to displayed ideological deviancy over the Tea Party–Wilkinson’s boss at Cato was canned because he couldn’t swallow the Tea Party line, and Wilkinson was sent packing with his boss.
After all that excitement and power in the nation’s capital, going from one Koch teat to the next, today Wilkinson has gone back full circle, back to his beloved Iowa where he grew up. What makes this particularly sweet is that Wilkinson didn’t return home to recapture his roots–instead, the unemployed billionaire’s-butler followed his young, solvent little Randroid partner, Kerry Howley, who is getting an MFA at the notorious Iowa Writer’s Program. Ah yes, if you want to escape elitists, there’s no better place to go than the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. You can’t get more absurd–or more abhorrent–than this.
Congratulations Will, congratulations Kerry. America will always remember you.
Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine.
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