David Warsh on Tyler Cowen, the Mercatus Center, and the Koch conspiracy

Cowen has been on my mind recently because of the swipe that reporter Jane Mayer took at the Mercatus Center in a widely-read article in a recent issue of The New Yorker.

…Mayer was unconvincing in her characterizations of the Mercatus Center as little more than a cat’s paw for the wealthy and conservative Koch brothers, of Wichita, Kansas, and Manhattan. The interplay of money and ideas, right and left, is always interesting, and Mercatus’ output after 25 years is due for a thorough and independent audit, but it is hardly all the Kochs’ doing. If anything, Mercatus appears to have avoided some of the pitfalls that have made the Hoover Institution such a dependable source of irritation to Stanford University.

The Koch article struck me as credible and convincing, at least until it painted Mercatus so one-dimensionally. No one who reads the prolific bloggers of GMU could consider them pawns or co-conspirators of a wealthy cabal.

But mostly the article is about Tyler. Well worth reading.

3 thoughts on “David Warsh on Tyler Cowen, the Mercatus Center, and the Koch conspiracy

  1. I don’t know Chris. Have you looked at the rest of the stuff that Mercatus produces? (such as the Veronique de Rugy anti-stimulus piece that Mayer references).
    Even for Tabarok – in all that’s public policy he is a very standard (and I would say bland) libertarian, and rent-seeking seems to be the main thing he sees in the economy.

    As for Tyler – yes he is much more nuanced, yes he is terrific in his intellectual breadth – but he is very careful in expressing actual policy views and spends a lot of the time he addresses policy debates he is arguing against liberal views.
    And, apparently, he successfully fulfills the function of lending the many hacks at the Mercatus Center an air of credibility among (for example) liberal leaning Canadian professors don’t view the center as a collection of hacks.
    Having some slightly more heterodox thinkers that provide ideological cover has been a stable of many of the right-wing thinktanks, noteably also Cato, the other place that’s mainly financed by the Kochs.

  2. I agree with Sebastian. Most of the ‘official staff’ at Mercatus’ website are regular George Mason faculty members who hardly ever stop by that building or make policy statements. The vast majority of policy advocacy is done by figures like Verinique de Rugy who writes more on National Review’s blog than on any publication.

    It’s difficult to put Cowen in a box but I read his blog regularly. When he critiques policies, they are almost invariably liberal policies. It’d be hard for me to believe that his position as General Director at Mercatus doesn’t play a part in that.