In this week’s Free Will, I chat with Jeff Sharlet, author of the shocking new book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. I’m prone to skepticism about shadowy cabals, but I found this book both believable and upsetting. Jeff (a contributing editor to Harpers and Rolling Stone) was apparently a bit worried about talking to a Cato suit, but it seems to have turned out okay:
When Bloggingheads TV, the website that produces those video “diavlogs” you see these days in the fold of the online NYT, told me they’d given my new book, The Family, to Will Wilkinson of the conservative libertarian Cato Institute , I was a little concerned. The elite fundamentalists about whom I write are particularly passionate about what some call “biblical capitalism,” a literally religious devotion to free markets. Wilkinson, as you can imagine, is a big believer in free markets, too, and for that reason I thought he and I might have a very contentious conversation.
Oh me of little faith in the wisdom of Bloggingheads. Wilkinson turned out to be an ideal respondent — indeed, he may have understood aspects of the book better than I did when I wrote it. Most importantly, he recognized that biblical capitalism uses the veneer of free markets as a cover for the cronyism of the anointed. It’s dishonest libertarianism, “self-interest by proxy,” in Wilkinson’s brilliant phrase — the exact opposite of the responsible, transparent libertarianism championed by Wilkinson.
I’m glad that came across!