[UPDATE: I have issued a correction and apology to Dr. Nerenz. My assertions regarding his academic bona fides were incorrect and I would like to correct the record accordingly]

At the American’s for Prosperity Bund Rally in Waukesha on Saturday (full details here), the audience was subjected to the Randian vocal stylings of “Dr.” Tim Nerenz*, CEO of Oldenburg Group Incorporated and libertarian blogger.  “Dr.” Nerenz is one of those loud, boorish libertarians who are possessed of that unwarranted sense of their own moral and intellectual superiority to the unwashed masses.  Listening to him is like listening to John Galt explain why selfishness is a virtue while riding on a train funded with government money (Atlas Shurgged is “Dr.” Nerenz’s favorite book).

The speech “Dr.” Nerenz gave at the Bund Rally is available from his website.  I’d like to focus on a small part just to give you a clear line-of-sight to the disingenuousness of his methodology.  His talk was about how the world used to be so much better when everything was run by old white men (like himself).  He opened his talk with an excerpt from a previous blog post he’d written called Downward Wisconsin (interesting side note, my brother-in-law forwarded me this post back in November asking if I knew who the author was.  I did not know then, but I sure know now!)

We used to make things here in Wisconsin.  We made machine tools in Milwaukee, cars in Kenosha and ships in Sheboygan.  We mined iron in the north and lead in the south.  We made cheese, we made brats, we made beer, and we even made the napkins to clean up the beer we spilled.  And we made money.

Yes, we made things here in Wisconsin at one time.  It was the heyday of American manufacturing.  But now?

Reality check: here are our top 10 employers in Wisconsin today:

Walmart, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Milwaukee Public Schools, U.S. Postal Service, Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Menards, Marshfield Clinic, Aurora Health Care, City of Milwaukee, and Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.

That is where a century of progressivism will get you.  That and a $3.6 billion structural deficit.

Ahh, the implication that we no longer make things here, we just service the bloated government bureaucracy.  This got a loud round of applause from the TeaZombies and other ConserviCretins in the audience too drunk on AFP KoolAde to have noticed that they’d been duped.  But did you see the switch he pulled off there?  Were you able to follow the magician’s hands as he waved them about hoping you wouldn’t notice the lie?  Let’s break it down.

The first quote simply lists some products that were (and, for the most part, still are) made in Wisconsin in the indeterminate past.  But the second quote is all about who the top employers are in Wisconsin today.  We have no idea who the top employers were in the first quote, “Dr.” Nerenz has not provided them.  But we are supposed to assume that the list of current top employers somehow magically maps back to the past list of manufacturing employers.  Now, for all I know, that list may just be a list of top employers.  But who knows?  “Dr.” Nerenz has not provided us the information we need to evaluate it.  He has presented the information and hoped his gullible audience will make the (il)logical leap and connect the dots he wants them to connect.  Apples, meet oranges.

But wait… It gets better.

My favorite bit of hypocrisy comes from research I did on “Dr.” Nerenz’s business after the Bund Rally.  Nerenz is an avowed libertarian.  He talked at the rally about how his company opened a new relationship with the Chinese and he received “no support” from the government to do so.  All he wants is for the government to “stay off my back.”

Of course, like most libertarians, he misses the obvious, hidden-in-plain-view support he and his business receive from the government.  Little things like an educated workforce supported by tax money.  Or fire and police service.  Or sewer and water.  Or roads.  Or trains.  Etc., etc., etc.  I could go on, but you get the point.  This libertarian blind spot is huge.  Yet this isn’t even the best example of his hypocrisy.

It gets even better…

Since 2006, Nerenz’s company, The Oldenburg Group Incorporated, took in more than $36 Million in US Government contracts.  Dirty, filthy government money.  Most recently, Oldenburg was awarded a $25 Million US Navy contract.

Oldenburg Group, Inc.*, Kingsford, Mich., is being awarded a $25,376,459 firm-fixed price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for manufacturing and installation support of slewing boat davits for LSD 41 and LSD 49 class Navy ships. Work will be performed in Kingsford, Mich. (93.4 percent); Norfolk, Va. (5.1 percent); San Diego, Calif. (1 percent); and Sasebo, Japan (0.5 percent). Work is expected to be completed by September 2016. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with four offers received.  The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (N65540-11-D-0010).

Unfortunately, Oldenburg is a private company so publicly available information about their financial situation is scant (no 10-Ks for instance), but obviously they rely heavily on contracts from the Federal government, that most hated of institutions, for a large piece of their revenue.  According to the Manta database

Oldenburg Group Inc in Rhinelander, WI is a private company categorized under Industrial Trucks and Tractors. Our records show it was established in and incorporated in Wisconsin. Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of $20 to 50 million and employs a staff of approximately 100 to 249.

So a $25 million government contract would represent a substantial part of their revenue plan, or so it would seem.  “Dr.” Nerenz, the citizens of America pay your fucking salary!!!

I applaud Oldenburg for growing their business in Wisconsin, but the hypocrisy of their CEO is difficult to swallow.  Credit where credit is due, “Dr.” Nerenz.  You and your business thrive because of direct government support, not in spite of it!

* The reason I put scare-quotes around the “Dr.” is because “Dr.” Nerenz received his Ph.D. in Business from an institution of questionable academic merit, Northcentral University (a for-profit private college).  The Ph.D. in Business program requires nothing more than the completion of 60 credit-hours.  No dissertation is required.

By contrast, a Ph.D. in Business from the University of Wisconsin are significantly more rigorous.  I expect “Dr.” Nerenz took this modern-day correspondence course to enhance his C.V. rather than his knowledge.  At least when Dr. Newt Gingrich calls himself a “Professor,” he’s not lying.  “Dr.” Nerenz?  Really? I think not…

7 Responses to Libertarian Hypocrite of the Week [UPDATED]

  1. Jeff Simpson says:

    This is a rhetorical question, because i know the answer but:

    Why do the “libertarians” who complain about how we do not make stuff in America anymore(of which i whole heartedly agree) continue to support Paul Ryan who is one of the top probably 10 people who have had enough power and influence to effect policy that has ensured that we no longer make things in America?

  2. tim nerenz says:

    In fact, Northcentral University does require dissertations, and it is accredited by the same organization and standards as UW. If you disagree with my political views, fine, but there is no need to attack the company I work for or the schools I attended. As I made clear on my site, our company does not take positions on political matters – I speak as an individual and identify my profession so people can evaluate their merit.

    What is your concern about Oldenburg’s contracts? Each of them is won in open competition and we do not employ lobbyists or advocates to influence funding – should American firms not build the products our military needs? Should we lay off all of our factory workers instead so that I am not accused of hypocrisy? That would be selfish.; they don’t deserve that. Government contracts are a small portion of our business. I am an employee and it is my responsibility to do what is best for our employees and our customers – if that troubles you, I am sorry.

    I don’t apologize for libertarian beliefs – freedom is nothing to be ashamed of. If I said or wrote something inconsistent with libertarian principles, that would be hypocritical. I don’t believe that I did. Best Regards. Tim

    • Phil Scarr says:

      What is your concern about Oldenburg’s contracts? Each of them is won in open competition and we do not employ lobbyists or advocates to influence funding – should American firms not build the products our military needs? Should we lay off all of our factory workers instead so that I am not accused of hypocrisy? That would be selfish.; they don’t deserve that. Government contracts are a small portion of our business. I am an employee and it is my responsibility to do what is best for our employees and our customers – if that troubles you, I am sorry.

      The very idea that you would stand in front of a group of people and claim that you get nothing from the government while knowing full well that you and your company exist in large part because of taxpayer dollars is the height of hypocrisy. As I closed my post,

      I applaud Oldenburg for growing their business in Wisconsin

      I do applaud your company for securing those contracts. What I do not applaud is your hypocritical libertarian philosophy.

      Complaining that the government doesn’t create jobs while you’re busy creating jobs with government money is the very definition of hypocrisy, sir.

      Instead of pimping for a Randian / libertarian fantasy world, perhaps you should realize and acknowledge the Keynesian system that benefits you personally as well as your employees. Government money pays your salary, sir, competitive bidding or not.

      And I look forward to reading your dissertation. Please send a PDF link along and I’d be happy to review it.

  3. Steven Reynolds says:

    Game, set and match to Phil. Hey, a Ph.D. should be able to recognize that. . .

    As a product of graduate programs at a peer institution to UW, and as someone who has taught at a peer institution to NorthCentral, it is only honest to admit that they are not the same thing, Mr. Nerenz. If you don’t know that fact, then you didn’t learn enough. If you do know it, then you are lying. Sure, I understand the bankrupt morality of libertarian philosophy thinks lying is fine, but other citizens consider lying shameful.

  4. tim nerenz says:

    Phil – after all those nice things you said about me, you can forgive me if I leave this thread and let you and your readers say what you wish about libertarians and Austrian economics! i write a blog, too, so I know how the comment threads can take on a life of their own. I don’t mind that people disagree with me, but this isn’t my life’s work – I’ve got a job to attend to. If you are really interested in the subject matter, you know how to access registered dissertations, certainly – many others have done so. Regards, Tim.

    • Phil Scarr says:

      You are correct. I apologize, and I have done so in a new post. I should not have called your bona fides into question, it was wrong to do so and it distracted from my actual point.

      I remain steadfast in pointing out the hypocrisy of preaching libertarianism while taking money from the government (to the tune of $36MM) and lining your own pockets with public monies.

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