What the Other Koch Brother Is Doing With His Money

A blog about business and economics.
Aug. 20 2012 3:59 PM

Koch Brother Building Private Town "For His Huge Collection of Western Memorabilia"

By now everyone knows about the Koch brothers' efforts to spend a fair chunk of their millions on defeating President Obama and reshaping American politics in the image of their oil extraction-friendly version of libertarianism. But Bill Koch, the other billionaire Koch brother, has a different plan for his money. A large-scale, private recreation of an old West town:

There's a new town in Colorado. It has about 50 buildings, including a saloon, a church, a jail, a firehouse, a livery and a train station. Soon, it will have a mansion on a hill so the town's founder can look down on his creation. But don't expect to move here — or even to visit.
This town is billionaire Bill Koch's fascination with the Old West rendered in bricks and mortar. It sits on a 420-acre meadow on his Bear Ranch below the Raggeds Wilderness Area in Gunnison County. It's an unpopulated, faux Western town that might boggle the mind of anyone who ever had a playhouse. Its full-size buildings come with polished brass and carved-mahogany details and are fronted with board sidewalks and underpinned by a water-treatment system. A locked gate with guards screens who comes and goes.
Koch's project manager has told county officials that the enclave in the middle of the 6,400-acre Bear Ranch won't ever be open to the public. It is simply for Koch's amusement and for that of his family and friends — and historians. It is the ultimate repository for his huge collection of Western memorabilia.
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This sort of thing is why progressive taxation is important. As people get richer and richer, it gets harder and harder to think of cost-effective ways of spending the marginal dollar on amusing yourself. When you take from the rich and give to the poor, you end up generating a lot of extra welfare as people who don't have very much can have their lives greatly improved at relatively low cost. Billionaires need to either plot schemes for world domination or else build replica towns at vast expense.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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