Were We Wrong about Charles Koch?

Yesterday evening, after dinner, we went over to our favourite Irish pub, Henry Downes, in Waterford City.

Run-down, derelict and shopworn, the bar needs a makeover…or a wrecking ball.

A group of young Irishmen in shorts (though it was cold and rainy outside) sat at one table. An old man in rumpled clothes shuffled in, sat at the bar, and ordered a Guinness. Then a youngish woman came in. She ordered a Guinness, too, and joined the old man at the bar, soon picking up a conversation.

Henry Downes

Henry Downes pub — where our thinking is done
We asked for the famous No.9 — a whiskey distilled by the establishment — and settled into a quiet corner booth. Our pulse raced. Our nostrils flared. For a moment we thought we might lose consciousness…

The No.9 was as smooth as ever. But our mind was rough with thoughts of all the Diary readers furious at our praise of Charles Koch.

Cancellations and complaints
Our commentary on Charles Koch — a billionaire businessman, libertarian, and big political donor — drew so many cancellations and complaints we didn’t know what to make of it.

Many readers had the kind of opinion of Koch usually reserved for the Gestapo or the plague. We wondered where they got it. So today, we return to the scene to investigate…

But first, we pause to let readers know that the Fed has begun an important powwow. ‘With Fed on Deck, Stocks Slip,’ reads a headline in Barron’s.

The Fed meeting will determine how much money Wall Street gamblers make this week…and perhaps also next week.

It is extraordinary, but bureaucrats working for a quasi-government bank cartel now decide who gets what. That they have shifted so much of the nation’s wealth to their friends — and future employers — in the financial sector is not surprising. But it is still outrageous. And it causes less complaint than gluten in communion wafers.

But let us leave the Fed and take up our subject for today: Charles Koch and his involvement in politics.

A boot on your neck
We begin by clarifying our own view of politics. In a few words: we’re against it.

We’re not for abstract ‘liberty’ or ‘democracy’ or any of the ‘-isms.’ We just don’t like anyone telling us what to do.

Politics is telling other people what to do. It is one part self-deception, one part fraud, and one part brute force. If you don’t go along with the self-deception or submit to the fraud, the government will use brute force against you. Ultimately, you must do what the politicians and their lackeys in government tell you…or they will soon have their boot on your neck.

Most people go along willingly…often happily. They stand in line to vote, feeling proud of themselves, hoping to score an advantage…or drive their neighbours in the direction they think they should go.

They want more retirement benefits…bigger salaries for teachers…or more war in the Middle East. They cannot get these things without the firepower of government behind them. So, they believe they are ‘good citizens’ by using it.

Deceiving, pretending, bullying, threatening, thieving, enslaving, and killing — strip away the claptrap and that is what you have. Government is a dirty and uncivilised business. As Thomas Jefferson pointed out long ago, the less of it you have the better off you are.

After all, almost everything obeys the ‘law of declining marginal utility.’ A little of No.9 may be a good thing; a lot is dangerous. Government is no different.

Fighting back
Charles Koch shares the view of the founding fathers — that when it comes to government, less is more.

But what can he do about it?

Should he pick up a rifle and defend his business, seeking to liberate it from the multitude of new offices…and the swarms of officers…sent to harass his people and eat out their substance?

Should he arm his 60,000 US employees…gather them at the gates of Wichita, Kansas (where Koch Industries is based)…and proclaim independence?

And then, when the feds send in their troops, should he fight…with a volley of gunfire that will be ‘heard ‘round the world’?

A smart man, Charles rid himself of self-deception by reading Austrian School economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises while he was still in college. Then he has watched the fraud develop…and seen through it.

He has watched the national debt rise from less than $1 trillion in 1980 to over $18 trillion today.

And day after day, government reaches deeper into our lives — with so many edicts, rules, and orders that the typical citizen is unable to keep up and, as a result, is in danger of being arrested and impoverished.

What would Jefferson do about this? What could Charles Koch do?

We doubt that it has been especially effective. But he has used his only weapon — money — for redress of grievances. And he has backed politicians he believes have the same view as he does.

A debt of gratitude
Koch’s critics accuse him of undermining democracy and perverting the (otherwise pristine) political process.

His friends wonder whether it is a good idea to sully his name by stooping to politics at all.

But in all we have learned about him, he seems to be genuine and forthright — almost naively innocent — about what he is doing…and why he is doing it.

It has nothing to do with getting special favours for himself or his business. He knows we are all under the feds’ heel. He merely tries to lighten the weight of the boot.

He seeks no special treatment, but only less treatment for us all. And for that we owe him a debt of gratitude.


Bill Bonner,
For Markets and Money, Australia

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America’s most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind Markets and Money.

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