New York Times unearths obscure ‘property rights’ and ‘Friedrich Hayek’

This New York Times piece on Tea Parties got some well-deserved mockery over the weekend, for talking about the “obscure”  and “dormant” authors like Friedrich Hayek with “dead” books.

What struck me in this article was the reporter’s treatment of the rule of law:

Ron Johnson, who entered politics through a Tea Party meeting and is now the Republican nominee for Senate in Wisconsin, asserted that the $20 billion escrow fund that the Obama administration forced BP to set up to pay damages from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill circumvented “the rule of law,” Hayek’s term for the unwritten code that prohibits the government from interfering with the pursuit of “personal ends and desires.”

Firstly, Johnson is right. The problem with the Obama-BP escrow fund wasn’t that he was making BP pay, but how ad hoc it was, like the Chrysler bailout, undermining tradition, and, well, the rule of law.

Secondly, the reporter treats “rule of law” as if it’s some sort of right-wing cant invented by Hayek. It predates Hayek, I promise you. But this reminds me of how the Times has used such scare quotes around “property rights,” when writing about eminent domain, in which government steals peoples’ land.

The Times mocks the ideas of property rights and the rule of law, which doesn’t put it in good company.

The Hayek, “rule of law” article, of course, was by the Times Tea Party expert Kate Zernike, whose record of clueless coverage of the Right is long.

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