I have a few words to say on Doug Bandow’s Christian libertarianism in a forthcoming post, but this breaking story about how he sold his soul for a few gold coins was just too astonishing for delay. In essence, Bandow wrote various op-eds in praise of the Indian gaming clients of Jack Abramoff for until-now undisclosed payments of up to $2000. Bandow failed to mention the financial connection in his op-eds, and he never even told his employer, the Cato Institute. He resigned from Cato yesterday, December 15th.
Since Bandow was willing to ever-so-quietly accept money to write op-eds in praise of special interests in these now-revealed cases, his readers must now wonder how often his judgment was swayed by such irrelevant factors in his other writings. How often did he fudge or twist or duck some pertinent facts, even if barely consciously, for the sake of a check? We have no idea.
Given the moral subjectivism common in the libertarian movement, I suspect that at least some of Doug Bandow’s fellow travelers will accept, if not defend his actions. After all, what’s wrong with making a bit of extra dough? In fact, a public intellectual cannot claim to advocate some substantive ideology on principle while also accepting payment to promote some special interest or other. It creates too obvious a conflict of interest — and casts doubt upon his honesty as a public intellectual.
I’ll be very interested to watch the libertarian response to this scandal. I suspect that it will be seriously downplayed.