Ignorance at the New York Times: Kate Zernike and the “Rule of Law”

The New York Times doesn’t know what the “rule of law” means.  In a story on the Tea Parties, reporter Kate Zernike claims that the “rule of law” is an “unwritten code” against government interference with “personal ends and desires” that has been adopted by the Tea Partiers.  She falsely attributed that strange definition to a book that she called a “once-obscure” text found on “dusty bookshelves” — the best-seller The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek.  Hayek was a famous free-market economist who received the Nobel Prize in 1974 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991.  Hayek has been approvingly cited as a groundbreaking thinker by even liberal economists, like Harvard’s Lawrence Summers, an adviser to Presidents Obama and Clinton.  Summers has said that Hayek’s legacy is “the single most important thing to learn from an economics course today.”  But to liberal reporter Zernike, Nobel Prize winner Hayek is a strange right-wing wacko that no one ever heard of before he was discovered by the Tea Parties.

The Times also didn’t know what an S Corporation is, as it was forced to reveal in a correction to a recent article slanted in favor of tax increases.

Being liberal is a virtual litmus test for working at the New York Times (even its house “conservative,” David Brooks, endorsed Obama in 2008).  Being well-read is not, nor is having a basic grasp of the economy.  Those things would just get in the way of pushing a know-nothing Manhattan-liberal agenda, like claiming that increases in government spending are good for the economy (even though increases in spending typically wipe out jobs in the long run, and often do so even in the short run).

As the Economist notes, “the rule of law, as Hayek understands it, does not, as Ms Zernike writes, prohibit government from interfering with the pursuit of personal ends and desires,” but rather embodies “ideals of impartiality, generality, and equality before the law.”  Nor is it supposed to be an “unwritten” code: indeed, “the rule of law” according “to Hayek ‘means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand.’ Typically, these rules, once fixed, are written down and then published. . . The idea is that politically-determined rules need to be relatively fixed and publicly known in order to create a stable and certain framework in which individual planning and complex social coordination can flourish.”