Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and now the owner of the Washington Post, is known to have political views different from many at the venerable old paper. He's been called — among many things — a “libertarian,” and he has, at times, been mentioned in the same breath as the libertarian Koch brothers. Although Bezos promises that nothing will change at the Post, a libertarian-leaning Post could actually mean a lot for the city and for journalism as a whole. Once a benchmark of great journalism, the Post has in recent years deteriorated into an apologist for Beltway insiders. A truly libertarian newspaper within the Beltway would remain skeptical of and keep a watchful eye on both parties, and return the Post to being one of the standard bearers of journalism.
The Washington Post once did great journalism and performed tremendous public services. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein famously brought to light the events of the Watergate scandal. In 1971, the Post refused an order from Attorney General William Rehnquist to cease publishing the controversial Pentagon Papers. The Post fought on behalf of the First Amendment all the way to the Supreme Court, where it won.
There are tremendous similarities between Richard Nixon and Barack Obama. Policy-wise, both sought to make strides towards universal health care. Most importantly, both were obsessed with consolidating and protecting their power. To this end, they engaged in egregious violations of American privacy. Rather than speaking truth to power, as the Post so famously did throughout the 1970s, the paper has spoken power to truth. The Post has trotted out excuse after excuse for the NSA’s limitless spying on Americans. Its interesting that the presumably left-leaning editors at the Post would do such a thing. Every liberal would have been up in arms had the spying been overseen by President McCain. Additionally, such scandals diminish public trust in government. A “true believer” in liberalism who is not power hungry and sincerely believes that government power is generally a force for good would see this spying as a hindrance to their long-term policy aims.
A “libertarian” Washington Post would be a return to the roots of both the institution and journalism as a whole. It would dedicate itself to bringing to light abuses of power on both sides of the aisle rather than apologizing for them. Such a paper would be good for Washington, a town that too often focuses on red vs. blue instead of stepping back and examining the implications of its actions. Such a paper probably wouldn’t be too popular with the locals. Hopefully, with his vast fortune, Bezos doesn’t care.