LET'S PLAY HORSESHOE THEORY
Reason magazine|October 2021
FUTURE
KATHERINE MANGU-WARD

THIS SUMMER, AMAZON founder JeffBezos went to the edge of space on a ship he built with his own earnings. A bunch of people saw the billionaire blast off and thought: “Screw that guy and his dumb rocket— the government should take his money because I have a much better idea of how to spend it.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) tweeted, “Here on Earth, in the richest country on the planet, half our people live paycheck to paycheck, people are struggling to feed themselves, struggling to see a doctor—but hey, the richest guys in the world are off in outer space! Yes. It’s time to tax the billionaires.” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D–Ore.) said he’ll introduce legislation that would tax wealthy space tourists in order to “support the public good.” And Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) reiterated their calls to abolish billionaires via a wealth tax.

The American right has long wanted to get its paws on Bezos as well. Former President Donald Trump has been beefing with Bezos for years, over the editorial line of The Washington Post (which Bezos owns) as well as the conduct of Amazon. In 2018 Trump tweeted, “I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” Other conservatives weighed in with their own thoughts when Bezos flew. Matthew Walther, editor of the conservative Catholic publication The Lamp, wrote: “Maybe instead of sending idiots into a blank meaningless void at a gazillion bucks a pop we could build, I dunno, a functioning transit system in our capital city. Maybe we could even try real regional rail. Just spitballing.”

The idea that left and right could be united by this moment of inspirational technological and commercial achievement to talk smack and do a cash grab isn’t that unusual. There is historical precedent for such a strange-bedfellow slumber party, and plenty of examples of it in our present.

THE HORSESHOE THEORY, like the Overton window, was a concept destined to be bastardized the moment it entered casual use. Its origins are murky, but the classic version posits that the political spectrum isn’t linear, but bent like a horseshoe, with leftist and rightist extremists closer to each other than either side would like to admit.

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