Two Thoughts on William Niskanen

I had only one close encounter with him. That was when he went to a Congressman’s office to argue against TARP and he invited me to join in the meeting. My observations about him:

1. He was highly principled. If he disagreed with a libertarian article of faith (such as the view that “starve the beast” would lower spending), he would say so. But he was certainly no friend of the establishment’s belief in itself and in big government. He knew that the elites were solidly for TARP, and that made him all the more willing to try to stop it.

2. He was modest and gentlemanly. He would have been the last person to engage in trolling for self-aggrandizement.

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8 Responses to Two Thoughts on William Niskanen

  1. Anon says:

    So in other words, he was nothing like the technocratic statist hacks who use his name for their think tank.

  2. Handle says:

    I feel the presence of absence. An implicated but unmentioned reference. Anyone have any guesses / links?

    • Yancey Ward says:

      Niskanen has been dead for a few years, so I am not sure what prompted Kling to mention him now.

      • Jeff R. says:

        Maybe Arnold was disappointed by something he read on the Niskanen Center’s website. Lord knows this has happened to me more than once.

    • Paul Craddick says:

      Sometimes the stars align in strange ways … surely some of you will have seen the recent piece by Will Wilkinson in the NYT:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/27/opinion/sunday/for-trump-and-gop-the-welfare-state-shouldnt-be-the-enemy.html

      As I wrote to a likeminded thinker I admire:
      “I find the piece depressing — and defective — on multiple levels: the conflation of a safety net and ‘The Welfare State'; the indifference to ‘big government’ as any kind of threat to liberty, irrespective of whether its economic interventions can theoretically be managed and deployed in ways that minimize economic distortions; the predictable reception by progressives, who pocket an attack on Republicans for not being more like them (‘rational’ re: embracing the Welfare State), but who of course take issue with the softballs Wilkinson throws contra ‘regulation’ &c; and overall the (in my view) vacuity of the ‘Liberaltarian’ outlook, which appears willfully blind to the inherent illiberality of progressivism. “

  3. Thomas says:

    I had many conversations with Bill during my 18 months at Cato in 1999-2000. He was exactly as Arnold portrays him. He called himself a liberal, in the classic sense, I believe that he would be taken aback by the Niskanen Center’s rapprochement with modern liberalism.

  4. Andrew' says:

    I might consider this a test of my NPR critique, which may be an example of O’Sullivan’s Law. They have to operate in the two-party system. Being independent is lonely. Playing both sides is tricky and probably not sustainable.

    • Andrew' says:

      Btw, trolling has its uses. Recall “Kayfabe.” A vicious fight can strengthen both sides.

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