A Speech to the Koch Conference

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 31 2011 11:16 AM

A Speech to the Koch Conference

Washington Examiner columnist and Obamanomics author Tim Carney has provided me with the close of the speech he gave to the Koch donor conference . This morning, I pointed out that Carney spoke at the event in 2010 and was encouraged to unload on rent-seeking. He did it again.

I see the protestors and the added attention on what youguys are all doing here as an opportunity for people to say, "What are youdoing here? How much do you care, and in which ways, about liberty?"

Is it really just to increase your profits? Because myanswer is, at least for the short term, there are much better ways to increaseyour profits than coming here. Go to K Street and hire a couple lobbyists. HireTony Podesta. He’ll help you probably more than these guys will, if what youcare about is short-term profits.

If you care about building a business, if you think thatenterprise is a worthwhile endeavor, if you care about liberty for moralreasons, because you know that it’s wrong to take somebody else’s propertywithout their consent, that you want you to profit, but you want to profit froma consensual exchange with customers -- if that’s why you care about liberty,that’s different from simply caring about profits. That’s wanting to profit ina moral way, refusing to profit through unjust means.

And you might care about it for the empirical reasons RichFink talks about: in freer countries, even the poor people there are lifted up.The greatest welfare program you can have is economic freedom.

And there are all sorts of reasons to care about liberty. Ithink a lot of businessmen who do talk about "capitalism," when the rubbermeets the road, and they have a choice between capitalism and profiting throughcronyism, and through what I call "regulatory robbery" – a lot of people choosethe other route.

So it makes a difficult decision sometimes for businessmen.Which one do you care more about? Are you willing to forgo profits that areperfectly legal just because you think it’s the wrong way to do it?

I think those are the questions. The media will always thinkthe liberals have the moral high ground, and I don’t believe that at all. Ithink that people pursuing enterprise and profit through free markets have themoral high ground. But so many people who say they’re going that route, reallywill take the profit even if it takes government to get it.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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