The Original Koch Haters

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 1 2010 12:12 PM

The Original Koch Haters

If you've spent time in D.C.'s libertarian subculture, it's really strange to see the Koch family and its donations become infamous. I've divulged this before, but in the interest of full disclosure: I spent two and a half years at Reason magazine, which receives some funding from the Kochs, and in January 2009 I attended and received payment for a Liberty Fund meeting in Alexandria, Va. -- one of the frequent intellectual salons organized by the Institute for Humane Studies, funded in part by the Kochs. In 2008 the New York Times wrote about a group of bloggers and where they lived, and noted that at the time I was the roommate of Julian Sanchez, a former Reason editor who now works at the Koch-supported Cato Institute.

The point: the Kochs have successfully, over the course of 30 years, funded a powerful libertarian infrastructure. The funny thing is that until mid-2009 or so, other libertarians hated that infrastructure. The loudest critics of the Kochs used to be "paleolibertarians," adherents of the economist Murray Rothbard, who feuded with the Kochs and accused them and their beneficiaries of being suckers for the state. Their blanket term for us: the "Kochtopus."


The closest I got to this battle was in January 2008, when Sanchez and I wrote a piece about Rep. Ron Paul's (R-Tex.) old, pre-congressional comeback newsletters, identifying who had written ugly racial stuff that was getting Paul in trouble as he ran for president. Libertarians outside of D.C. accused the "Kochtopus" and the "Orange Line Mafia" (a reference to the D.C. metro line that, actually, doesn't connect George Mason University, Reason, Cato, and Americans for Prosperity, but never mind) of smearing Paul. This ire went back years and continued into 2009 -- here's a sample of Rockwell's commentary from last March.

[T]he state always finds pro-state libertarians most useful. "Why, even Xis for this program, so how can you be against it?" The change beganwith the move of Cato to DC, and then Reason and others too, and thetakeover of a local economics department. Note: there are many otherKoch non-profits in DC and elsewhere. And the Kochs have long been thebiggest donors to the Republican party, for example. For the largestprivately held corporation in America, there is apparently more moneyto be made in cahoots with the state, and in the tradition of Exxon andother Rockefeller interests, which the Koch brothers have for 30 yearssought to emulate, after their brief and much-regretted flirtation withRothbardianism. So it is no surprise that the chief Koch economist hasnow praised Obama’s economic advisors and bank bailouts in the NY Times .

The reference to GMU's Tyler Cowen as the "chief Koch economist" is pretty risible, but you get the drift. Until the tea party movement started rolling, many libertarians were convinced that the Kochs were throwing money down a rathole, supporting "statist" organizations that were collaborating with, not challenging, power. This is why us Orange Line mafiosos are so surprised to see the Kochs exposed as the Saurons of libertarianism.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?