Off the Cuff: Lee Doren, “Crasher-in-Chief”

Lee Doren is the director (a.k.a. “crash- er-in-chief”) of Bureaucrash, a division of the libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise. He also maintains a YouTube channel called “How the World Works.” Doren was brought to Oberlin as part of the Ronald Reagan Political Lectureship Series to give a talk titled “Avoiding Leftist Indoctrination at College.” A few hours before his lecture, he spoke with the Review about the dangers of bias in higher educa- tion, how to reject arguments that global warming exists, and why one should learn and debate fearlessly.

Ian Seeley and Sam Jewler

So, you had no hesitation coming to Oberlin?

No, not one bit. I really enjoy speaking to students because I had very similar experiences, obviously. You can tell I’m not that much older than all of you.

Do you have any personal experience with [professors using their classrooms to promote their political views]?

[In my college experience] you only heard one political perspective in the classroom. If you heard the other side, it was only essentially used to ridicule it. It wasn’t really used to … explain the alternative point of view.

Do you think this is systematic or more unintentional?

It is unintentional for a lot of professors. … If those professors are always seeing themselves, you know, in their offices, they are always talking about what they are presenting to the students — if one professor is doing it and all of them are doing it, well, they tend to think that’s generally acceptable.

I know you debate the veracity of global warming. I came across this article [“Scientists: Climate Pact a Failure: Global Warming has Exceeded Worst Fears Since ’97 Kyoto Treaty” The Express, Nov. 23, 2009], and I was wondering what you think?

There’s four things that the people who support global warming have to endorse. First, the earth is warming. Second, that human beings are causing it. Third, we need to do something about it because it’s either going to lead to a catastrophe or it’s going to harm something. And fourth, that what they are proposing is actually going to solve it. They have to argue all four things for it to be justified. Essentially, all I have to argue is one of those doesn’t work.

What’s wrong with decreasing pollution where in a lot of places it tangibly harms people?

Pollution does have a tangible effect on people. The question is, at what cost? There is a false debate essentially that goes on that pollution is bad and we can reduce pollution at any price. … The government is going to pick energy that they deem is cleaner from fossil fuels. They are going to reward those who use that energy with subsidies or some sort of mandates, and they are going to tax or move away from essentially cheaper energy which arguably causes more pollution. Well, what that’s going to do is increase the cost of living. Who is going to get harmed by that the most? Poor people. … Yeah, I’m for cleaner air, I’m for cleaner water. In fact, I used to work for an environmental lobbying organization, which would certainly surprise many people.

Would you ever run for political office?

I don’t think I will. I haven’t ruled it out yet. … I’m just letting the cards go where they go. I didn’t expect this five months ago. Within five months I’ve been on Fox, CNN, and speaking in front of 100,000 people on the Capitol. I was just a nobody making YouTube videos a couple months ago.

Would you run in the Republican Party?

If I were planning on winning, obviously, I would have to.

As a libertarian, what liberties do you feel like you’re missing out on right now?

Well, I think right now we see the greatest expansion of government maybe in history. … What that’s going to take away is individual choice, … especially [in the case of] health care. … Someone in the government is going to have to make a decision on who gets care when and why. And I don’t want to live under a system where the government essentially has that much control over every citizen.

Don’t you think, for example, if the government has the ability to force the pharmaceutical industry to lower drug prices, that it should do so?

Well, say we did that — say we told the pharmaceutical companies, “You’re going to have to lower prices.” Now, if the pharmaceutical companies are spending millions of dollars in research and development to develop these drugs … don’t be surprised if they start developing less and less drugs because it doesn’t justify the expenditures that they spend on research and development. So if you want to argue that, you also have to accept the fact that there’s going to be less technological innovation, less life-saving drugs in the future.

At a school like Oberlin, do you feel that a program like the Ronald Reagan Lecture Series can offset some of what happens in the classroom?

Yeah, but you still need a lot of self-education. You can’t really get enough from just attending lectures. A lot of students … kind of have a sense that the professor is one-sided, but what they really don’t know is there’s an entire body of work that may disagree with their professors.

Any advice you’d leave for people going into politics?

I would say in general that if you really believe something, don’t be ashamed of talking about it. … It’s the perception for a lot of people that “We’re so much in the minority that we’re going to get lashed out at if we talk about stuff that we believe,” and I think that creates a situation where neither side benefits, because nobody’s talking about what they believe. So there’s such a groupthink on both sides, where … libertarians will only talk with libertarians; Republicans will only talk with Republicans, across the spectrum — and nobody has really practiced or developed the skill of just agreeing to disagree about stuff.

That’s inspiring.

Well, good.