Classically Liberal on the Kochs

A pretty vigorous takedown:

This blog has previously defended Charles and David Koch from false allegations. There have simply been half truths told about them. This doesn’t mean they are perfect individuals. In fact, they are currently up to something I consider very loathsome. And for that reason we give notice that we shall never bother to defend the Koch brothers again—even when we think the attack is unfair. We will not spread malicious and false accusations, we just won’t defend these two men…

Many years ago Charles Koch asked Ed Crane what sort organization was needed in the libertarian movement. Crane said a think tank that tackled hard policy questions was important. From that the Cato Institute was born. Charles, some years ago, had a hissy fit about something and took his toys and ran. But he remained a shareholder, as did his brother.

There were four shareholders: including the Kochs there was Ed Crane and Bill Niskanen, who recently died. Niskanen’s shares went to his wife but Charles Koch has filed a lawsuit in Kansas, far from Cato’s main offices, to redistribute Niskanen’s shares to all existing stock holders, instead of to his widow, which would effectively mean a hostile takeover of Cato by Koch.

Cato is the largest and most effective libertarian organization in the world. After Charles had his hissy fit and went crying to Kansas, Ed Crane built Cato into a world class orgnization. Charles, who has actually done little but throw his money around, now wants to muscle in and take over Cato. Let me be clear, while I think the Kochs have libertarian sentiments, over conservative ones, they simply don’t give a fuck about whole areas of human liberty. Koch is the ultimate “me-libertarian” who views liberty as something important to white, old rich dudes and doesn’t care about others. He wouldn’t deny other their freedom, he just doesn’t care when it is denied to them, except on some academic level which has no real impact. Koch funds groups that help him, and doesn’t care whether they help liberty in general. If the issue impacts Koch it gets funding. They throw a lot of money at conservative causes, not libertarian ones. Koch has been rather miserly with donations to genuine libertarian groups and quite generous to anti-liberty conservatives.

Now, let us assume for the sake of argument, that Koch is entirely in the right. What will his lawsuit accomplish? It will mean the effective destruction of Cato. This old fart from Kansas is willing to decimate the most influential libertarian organization in the world because he has a point to prove. This is the height of irrational greed. It is greed because Koch has had it in for Crane for years for whatever slight he felt and is doing this to feel good. It is irrational because he will destroy something he claims to value in order to seek that vengeance.

The end result of Koch’s action will be to harm libertarianism in a significant way. I don’t give a fuck about his motivation, I know what the result will be. And anyone willing to inflict that much damage on libertarians, for any reason, is not an ally, but an enemy, and a very dangerous one at that. So, libertarian friends, if you “liked” Koch Industries on Facebook, you might want to unlike them.

Libertarianism is strong, but endangered. There is a concerted effort to take the libertarian revival and turn it into something other than libertarian. We see it from the so-called paleolibertarians, that gaggle of bigoted, anarcho-fundamentalists who distort and twist the idea of Ludwig von Mises to try and bolster their right-wing agenda. We see it from conservatives who have flooded libertarianism pushing neoconservative foreign policies and social conservatism, while pretending they are actually libertarian. Certainly Koch has done a lot to fund these latter fakes. Now Charles Koch has gone on the offensive, and offensive describes his actions in every sense of the word. He is now actively working to destroy the most effective libertarian organization in the world. As I see it, that makes him the most potent enemy to libertarianism around. He is trying to do what many far left, and far right, groups would love to do—take the Cato Institute out of the game. Charles Koch—you suck.

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33 thoughts on “Classically Liberal on the Kochs

  1. And the plot continues to thicken:

    [Ed] Crane released a bristling statement on the suit:

    Charles G. Koch has filed a lawsuit as part of an effort to gain control of the Cato Institute, which he co-founded with me in 1977. While Mr. Koch and entities controlled by him have supported the Cato Institute financially since that time, Mr. Koch and his affiliates have exercised no significant influence over the direction or management of the Cato Institute, or the work done here.Mr. Koch’s actions in Kansas court yesterday represent an effort by him to transform Cato from an independent, nonpartisan research organization into a political entity that might better support his partisan agenda. We view Mr. Koch’s actions as an attempt at a hostile takeover, and intend to fight it vehemently in order to continue as an independent research organization, advocating for Individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.

    And so, the games begin …

    Charles Koch, who very rarely speaks in public, is now firing back at his old friend Ed Crane. According to the A.P., he issued a pointed statement evidently aimed directly at Crane, insinuating that it is he who is threatening the Cato Institute’s libertarian mission, not the Kochs.

    I can’t imagine that anyone will find persuasive Chas’s rather sudden overwrought concern for the integrity of Cato’s mission. What amuses me, though, is the shock that seems to be coursing through the libertarian crowd: Chas Koch has [gasp!] engaged in a purely self-serving activity with complete disregard for its broader impact. I mean, really, this is hardly new.

    Meanwhile, I strongly suspect  that David will keep his hands clean of the dirty bits, but I can’t help but wonder if he isn’t  fist-bumping his bro behind closed Koch doors.

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  2. “We will not spread malicious and false accusations, we just won’t defend these two men…”

    So they may not agree with what you say, but they’ll defend to the death your right to sayOH HELL NAW YOU DON’T BE TAKIN MAH STUFF!   WE HATES IT WE HATES IT FOREVERRRRRR

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  3. I know way to little to have a meaningful opinion on the merits of this controversy or what this controversy means.  However, I can imagine it might be good for libertarians because an attack by the Kochs, who rightly or wrongly are seen by the public as conservatives (inasmuch as the public sees them at all) might underscore the allegedly libertarian bona fides of Cato.

    (I say “allegedly” because I know too little about Cato and my ignorance feeds a probably too credulous of think tanks in general.  I guess it would help if I actually read something produced by Cato in addition to Jason’s writings on marriage, which I enjoy.)

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  4. Niskanen’s shares went to his wife but Charles Koch has filed a lawsuit in Kansas, far from Cato’s main offices, to redistribute Niskanen’s shares to all existing stock holders, instead of to his widow, which would effectively mean a hostile takeover of Cato by Koch.

    Uh oh.  These are the arguments of people who expect to lose in court.

    I get the [effectively] hostile part, but I wonder if Charles might have felt the same way during that hissy fit way back when.  Minority ownership (especially when you thought had the votes) is a bitch.  Sounds like Crane can see it coming.

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  5. sorry, wrong link here’s the one i meant to post


    Jonathan, that was an excellent post yesterday regarding the Koch-Cato dispute.  I agree with you entirely.  There is more, however, that might be said about the Kochs’ dishonest narrative concerning what is going on here.

    We seek no ‘takeover,’ and this is not a hostile action

    This is at odds with both the words and deeds of the Koch brothers of late.  Last year, they used their shares to place two of their operatives – Kevin Gentry and Nancy Pfotenhauer – on our board against the wishes of every single board member save for David Koch.  Last Thursday, they used their shares to force another four new board members on us (the most that their shares would allow at any given meeting); Charles Koch, Ted Olson (hired council for Koch Industries), Preston Marshall (the largest shareholder of Koch Industries save for Charles and David), and Andrew Napolitano (a frequent speaker at Koch-sponsored events).  Those four – who had not previously been involved with Cato either financially or organizationally – were likewise opposed by every member of our board save for Gentry, Pfotenhauer, and David Koch.  To make room for these Koch operatives, we were forced to remove four long-time, active board members, two of whom were our biggest donors.  At this moment, the Kochs now control seven of our 16 board seats, two short of outright control.

    Why are they forcing out Cato board members, all strong, principled libertarians who have been heavily involved with Cato – financially and organizationally – for years?  The answer was given in early November of last year when David Koch, Richard Fink (he of many Koch hats), and Kevin Gentry met with Cato board chairman Bob Levy.  They told Bob that they intended to use their board majority to remove Ed Crane from Cato and transform our Institute into an intellectual ammo-shop for American for Prosperity and other allied (presumably, Koch-controlled) organizations.  That statement of intent is certainly consistent with what we’ve been hearing from both Kevin Gentry and Nancy Pfotenauer.  They’ve frequently complained during their short time on our board that Cato wasn’t doing enough to defeat President Obama in November and that we weren’t working closely enough with grass roots activists like those at AFP.

    there”s more at the link



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