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Matt Welch: ‘The Great Libertarian Conspiracy’

Excerpts from an article by Matt Welch of Reason:

New York Times columnist Frank Rich accused the Kochs of plotting “a billionaires’ coup” to secure “corporate pork,” tax cuts, and a blank check for Wall Street bailouts. “What the Koch brothers have bought with their huge political outlays,” opined Times columnist Paul Krugman, “is, above all, freedom to pollute.” The New York Observer’s Yasha Levine concluded that the brothers are “not very” libertarian, as evidenced by their fondness for “using government subsidies to maximize their own profits.” The Democratic National Committee hammered Koch Industries for laying off 118 workers at a North Carolina plant: “The question for the Kochs is instead of spending money on secret campaigns to fill the government with candidates that will enact their special interest agenda, why aren’t they spending that money on saving those American jobs?”


If these attacks appear to lack a consistent theme, it’s because Democrats need the Koch bogeyman to accomplish so many political tasks. The narrative that emerged after the Mayer article, which became a kind of pre-election Rosetta Stone for Democrats trying to decode why they were going to lose in 2010 and maybe 2012, boils down to a strained four-part theory: 1) The ruthlessly powerful Kochs are “covertly” waging a war against Obama on behalf of right-wing Republicans; 2) they are doing so chiefly out of their own corporate self-interest (mostly to pollute) and a general “pro-corporate” agenda; 3) they are creating and/or co-opting populist anti-government sentiment they don’t necessarily believe in; and 4) this is all a direct effect of the Citizens United decision, in which the Supreme Court lifted restrictions on political speech by corporations (though wealthy individuals such as the Kochs have always been free to spend their money on political messages).

What a long, strange trip it has been for the Kochs. In 1980 David Koch was the vice presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, when he and Ed Clark (a self-described “low-tax liberal”) ran on a platform that included abolishing the CIA and FBI. Not long before that, according to Senior Editor Brian Doherty’s definitive history Radicals for Capitalism, Charles Koch had openly considered buying the progressive opinion magazine The Nation before helping to launch Inquiry, which published such writers as Noam Chomsky and Marcus Raskin. The conservative flagship National Review beat The New Yorker by a solid 31 years with its cover-story shocker that “anarchists, backed by corporate big money” were “infiltrat[ing] the freedom movement.” Horrors!

He concludes:

There are millions of people—including me, including the Kochs, including people who have never heard of the Koch family—who feel some basic affinity for the notion that that government is best which governs least. Although this is a bedrock tradition in the American polity, it has had almost zero representation in Washington, D.C., during the last decade of bipartisan misgovernment.

Yet libertarians are supposed to be a threat to the republic. Just imagine if we had any political power!

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  1. David F. Nolan David F. Nolan November 11, 2010

    Gene @ 3 – Don’t you mean a huge stockpile of SILVER?

  2. Gene Berkman Gene Berkman November 10, 2010

    The Koch brothers have no known connection with the Hunt brothers. And they are different in another way.

    While the Koch brothers were involved long ago in The John Birch Society, the Hunt brothers have a more recent affiliation with the JBS.

    But a bigger difference: in 1980 Bunker Hunt tried to amass a huge stockpile of gold in order, he said, to promote a new hard money system. He borrowed heavily from Saudi investors, and when his little silver bubble burst, and he ended up losing money, he went to the federal government and asked for a bailout.

    I am not aware of the Koch brothers asking for a bailout, or needing one.

  3. paulie paulie November 10, 2010

    None that I know of. You know any different?

  4. Best We Can Do? [Lake] Best We Can Do? [Lake] November 10, 2010

    any connection to the Texas ‘Silver Monopoly’ Hunt Family / Brothers?

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