the FT at lunch with Charles Koch

Charles Koch (born 1935) and his younger brother David (born 1940) are billionaires who contribute generously to conservative causes and Republican candidates. Leftist Americans view the Koch brothers as villains, as a danger to democracy. I was thus surprised to learn today that the elder Koch is unhappy with Donald Trump, a billionaire who leads the Republican race for nomination as candidate for president. Policies proposed by Ted Cruz, another Republican front-runner, are also anathema to him. Indeed, many of Koch’s views are close to those of Bernie Sanders, a self-styled socialist who seeks nomination as Democratic candidate for president.

All became clear once I understood that Charles Koch is not a conservative. He is a libertarian.

I ask [Charles Koch] … about [Donald] Trump’s assertion that the US could require all Muslims in the country to register with the government.

“Well, then you destroy our free society,” Koch says of the idea. “Who is it that said, ‘If you want to defend your liberty, the first thing you’ve got to do is defend the liberty of people you like the least’?” ….

It’s a view that also contrasts with that of another Republican frontrunner; Ted Cruz’s plan to carpet-bomb Isis strongholds is anathema to Koch. “I’ve studied revolutionaries a lot,” he says. “Mao said that the people are the sea in which the revolutionary swims. Not that we don’t need to defend ourselves and have better intelligence and all that, but how do we create an unfriendly sea for the terrorists in the Muslim communities? We haven’t done a good job of that.” With about 1.6bn Muslims worldwide “in country after country. What,” he asks, “are we going to do: go bomb each one of them?”

These particular views could almost have come from the mouth of Bernie Sanders, the socialist challenger to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination and a regular basher of the Kochs. ….

Through our conversation, there seems to be no issue to which smaller government, freer markets and unfettered competition is not the solution. “Our worst example in this country is the way we’ve treated Native Americans,” he says at one point. “A great portion of the property of the American Indians is held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They are not allowed to control their own.” Citing the high rate of unemployment among Native Americans, he says, “This is what this whole philosophy of control and dependency does. How do you have a life of meaning? It’s hopeless. So, you’re, oh well, they’re a bunch of alcoholics. Well, no kidding.”

Stephen Foley, “Lunch with the FT: Charles Koch“, Financial Times, 9 January 2016 (metered paywall).

There is much more in the full column.


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