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To celebrate their 45th anniversary, Reason Magazine has published a list of what they call "45 Enemies of Freedom." Reason probably meant this to be a proud statement of their values, but it comes off more like a Cliff Notes version of the brain-dead nature of American right-wing libertarianism.

Along with some obvious choices (Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, J. Edgar Hoover), the people Reason feels threatened by include: Elizabeth Warren, Naomi Klein, Paul Krugman, Sean Penn, Steven Seagal and somewhat inexplicably, former Playmate and MTV host Jenny McCarthy.

Topping the list ("the man who nearly everyone on our staff nominated, a figure who embodies so much that is wrong") is Michael Bloomberg - a choice that exemplifies the tendency of right-wing libertarians to elevate minor issues into existential threats. While I'm no fan of Bloomberg or his policies, the banning of certain sizes of soft drink is best described as a "first world problem" in a world where 7.6 million people die from lack of food and water every year (20,864 a day).


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When Reason does turn its gaze outside the U.S., you can see another aspect of right-wing libertarian hypocrisy come into play. For all their supposed hatred of neoconservatives and foreign interventionism, Reason's enemies abroad are basically a cast list of the U.S. government's officially designated villains: Fidel Castro, Vladimir Putin, and the leaders of the Iranian, Russian and Chinese revolutions. Hugo Chavez even makes an appearance by way of Sean Penn.

Reason apparently doesn't grasp the irony of listing Henry Kissinger, who helped install the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, right next to Naomi Klein, who wrote a book criticizing it. Klein's inclusion might seem weird, but in fact her work criticizing Milton Friedman and pointing out his links to American imperialism provoked a level of outrage among the right similar to when Danish cartoonists published a picture of the Prophet Mohammed.

According to Reason's thinking it seems, foreign interventionism is terrible. But anyone who dares to launch a critique of the system of global capitalism that drives and motivates it is a hippy extremist who must be silenced.

Similarly, some on the libertarian right will tell you they oppose too-big-to-fail business, but they rarely offer more than a vague critique. Jeffrey Immelt makes Reason's enemies list because GE is "particularly big" and a "poster boy for modern-day crony capitalism." But Elizabeth Warren also makes the list for attempting to reign in big banks and pushing for "controls on everything from credit cards to home loans." It seems there really is no coherent critique of mega-corporation dominance anywhere to be found in right-wing libertarian thinking (as opposed to left-libertarianism, which includes private entities in its critique).

This is astoundingly short-sighted when you consider the true nature of the current American economy, discussed here by Tim Wu, in which large institutions overwhelmingly dominate. This leads to oligopolistic behavior where companies fix prices and offer ever-reducing choice, a far cry from the kind of free market paradise Reason Magazine types like to envision themselves living in. Noam Chomsky has come up with a name for this state of affairs recently: RECD (Really Existing Capitalist Democracy), which works even better if you say it out loud.

Walmart, whose seven heirs control as much wealth as the bottom 40% of Americans, now sells 57% of all groceries. In the world of film, six mega-studios pull in 90% of the revenue. Four wireless providers control 89% of the cell phone market. Four airlines control 69% of domestic travel.

Any objective analysis would view these massive corporate entities, which dominate our economic and political lives and stand in the way of any democratic change that threatens their interests, as true "enemies of freedom."

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