Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard has written a profile of Charles and David Koch and Koch Industries, focusing on politics and the attacks by the political Left.
A key passage in the story explains what those who believe in economic freedom have known all along: If Charles and David Koch really wanted to make a lot of money for themselves, they would act like most corporations: seek fortune through government intervention, not through competition in free markets:
The second charge was that the Kochs’ talk about free markets was merely cover for economic self-interest. But if that were true, why doesn’t every major corporation full-throatedly support limited government? Are we really to believe that Koch Industries is the only self-interested corporation in America? The reality, of course, is that an easier way to advance corporate self-interest is the one taken by most giant companies: securing monopolies, bailouts, tariffs, subsidies — the opposite of free enterprise. “It’d be much safer economically to sit on the sidelines or curry favor with the Obama administration,” said Richard Fink.
It was impossible for the liberal activists to acknowledge that libertarians might actually operate from conviction. Charles and David believed in low taxes, less spending, and limited regulation not because those policies helped them but because they helped everybody. “If I wanted to enhance my riches,” said David, “why do I give away almost all my money?”
We’ve just seen the results of how an “aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting” can succeed, as we’ve learned that General Electric has been successful in avoiding income tax liability. GE, whose chief executive is said to be close to President Obama, also invests in industries like wind power that receive government subsidy, without regard for the underlying economic benefit of these investments.
But Charles and David Koch believe that economic freedom and free markets are the best way to generate prosperity for everyone, and the Weekly Standard article shows they have worked for decades to promote this message.
What may really gall liberals is that while believing that a powerful and expansive government is good for the country, they have created a complicated machine that a politically-favored company like GE can exploit for huge profits, all without creating anything that consumers value. Charles Koch calls for an end to this, as he recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “Government spending on business only aggravates the problem. Too many businesses have successfully lobbied for special favors and treatment by seeking mandates for their products, subsidies (in the form of cash payments from the government), and regulations or tariffs to keep more efficient competitors at bay. Crony capitalism is much easier than competing in an open market. But it erodes our overall standard of living and stifles entrepreneurs by rewarding the politically favored rather than those who provide what consumers want.”
The political Left just can’t believe that anyone would write that and really mean it.
The Paranoid Style in Liberal Politics
The left’s obsession with the Koch brothers
By Matthew Continetti
… For decades David and Charles have run Koch Industries, an energy and manufacturing conglomerate that employs around 50,000 people in the United States and another 20,000 in 59 other countries. Depending on the year, Koch Industries is either the first- or second-largest privately held company in America — it alternates in the top spot with Cargill, the agricultural giant — with about $100 billion in revenues. David and Charles are worth around $22 billion each. Combine their wealth and you have the third-largest fortune in America after Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Like most billionaires, the brothers spend a lot of time giving their money away: to medical and scientific research, to educational programs, to cultural institutions, and to public policy research and activism.
That last part has caught the attention of the left’s scouring eye. For unlike many billionaires, the Koch brothers espouse classical liberal economics: They advocate lower taxes, less government spending, fewer regulations, and limited government. “Society as a whole benefits from greater economic freedom,” Charles wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. Judging by the results of the 2010 elections, there are millions of Americans who agree with him.
Over the years the Kochs have flown beneath the radar, not seeking publicity and receiving little. But then the crash of 2008 arrived, and the bailouts, and the election of Barack Obama, and pretty soon the whole country was engaged in one loud, colossal, rollicking, emotional argument over the size, scope, and solvency of the federal government. Without warning, folks were springing up, dressing in colonial garb, talking about the Constitution, calling for a Tea Party. Some of them even joined a group called Americans for Prosperity — which the Kochs helped found and partly fund.
Bob is too kind to GE. Jeffrey Immelt the CEO of GE has been appointed to a presidential panel by the Obamanation. GE appears to have an exemption from the czars in the White House and EPA.
If the Koch brothers would sing out of the GE/Progressive/Soros playbook, their regulatory difficulties would disappear faster than snow in June.
What is really odious, is the fact that GE was saved by TARP when their overleveraged financial arm would have taken the whole company down if they had not received a federal bailout in 2008. This is a disgrace and crony capitalism at its worst.
The radical left’s assault on the Koch brothers is a great example of their ideology: They are unable to allow anyone to have a voice that is opposite of their beliefs: they want to destroy them and silence them forever.
Conservatives don’t believe in silencing the opposition. They believe in having a good debate and winning on the ideas.
BTW: GE made $5 Billion in profit in 2010, and paid ZERO taxes!
I agree with your general idea, but let’s be cautious not to demonize all liberals or assume all conservatives are so innocent. Many conservatives also jump on the bandwagon of frenzy on the opposite side, and we risk forming our own radical conspiracy theory. Let good debate and fact checking guide our conclusions, not reactive, emotional attacks and assumptions on either side. I get nervous by the increasing polarization when both sides assume the worst in each other.
Politics is so exciting! I’m in the right place.
Thanks for the thoughts, Bob and Sue C.