Charles Koch Got the Free-Market Dystopia He Wanted. Now He’d Like Your ApprovalBreaking News
tags: libertarianism, Think Tanks, Koch Brothers, Charles Koch, Conservative Movement, Dark Money, Money in Politics
Billionaire Charles Koch—who, alongside his late brother, is best known for funding a host of conservative and libertarian think tanks, donating lavishly to Republicans, and otherwise flooding the political system with dark money—recently spoke to The Wall Street Journal in order to express some regret over a few of his past political activities (and promote a forthcoming book, as one does). He was, he told the Journal, now steering away from hard-line partisanship and hoping to work with the Biden administration and other Democrats on issues of apparent shared concern, including criminal justice reform, immigration, and Covid-19. “Unite a diversity of people behind a common goal,” Koch said. “That’s our approach today.” (According to the Journal, he was even more remorseful about his past partisanship in his book: “Boy, did we screw up!” he wrote. Oops!)
Koch’s transformation from a notorious bankroller of conservative causes to a more genteel sort of nonpartisan libertarian has been in the works since at least last year, when the infamous Seminar Network (also known unofficially as the Koch network) underwent a rebrand to become Stand Together. The pleasantly neutral-sounding philanthropic venture backs inoffensive initiatives like job-training and other programs intended to foster “self-actualization” (and happens to be headed by a former director of the free-market think tank the Mercatus Center).
Over the last few years, Koch has also worked with the American Civil Liberties Union and both Democratic and Republican politicians to pass criminal justice reform measures like reducing sentences for nonviolent offenses.
In a certain sense, we’re probably better off with Koch money going toward such efforts than, say, installing Tea Party members in Congress or denying climate change. But at the same time, for all his recent talk of bipartisan “bottom-up” transformation, Koch’s embrace of “unity” barely scratches the surface of the profoundly anti-democratic system that his money helped entrench for decades. And “unity” often means next to nothing within a political landscape whose horizons have already been shrunken down by—surprise!—Koch’s own ruthless interference. He’s a billionaire who’s gotten everything he wants from our political system. Now, I guess, he’d like to be remembered for something else.