Defending the Koch brothers

Tom Jackson
May 2, 2013

I've advocated all sorts of unpopular causes in this blog — I like Internet freedom, I like peace, I like the Cleveland Indians — so I may as well complete my contrarian portfolio by writing a qualified defense of the Koch brothers, the left's current No. 1 villain.

 
The two brothers, David and Charles, are reported to be interested in buying eight newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. The report has prompted a great deal of hand-wringing from Democrats.
 
Now, I don't know how good a job the Kochs would do in running a chain of newspapers. Maybe they would ruin them.
 
But I don't think it's fair to assume the Kochs would be bad for the LA Times. And I thought I'd let you know that much of what you read about the Kochs is wrong. I see a great many articles about the Kochs that feature deliberate misinformation, designed to make them look as bad as possible in the eyes of Democrats and liberals.
 
For example, one of my favorite blogs, Boing Boing, ran a piece by one of my favorite writers, Cory Doctorow, which characterized the Kochs as "billionaire ultra-conservative puppet-masters."
 
That's incorrect. The Kochs are libertarians.
 
As Jack Shafer points out in this article, the Kochs support gay marriage, favor cutting defense spending and withdrawing U.S. military forces from the Middle East. 
 
The U.S. Congress has literally hundreds of Republican members. As far as I can tell, the only ones who supports all of those positions is Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who has taken over Ron Paul's slot as the "token libertarian" in the U.S. House, and Sen. Rand Paul. (Both are social conservatives, but they support repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.) 
 
David Koch was the Libertarian Party's vice presidential candidate in 1980. They have given heavily to various libertarian causes and magazines, including Reason magazine.
 
Disclosure: Reason recently ran my rave review of the new Cory Doctorow novel, Homeland. You'll notice that Cory doesn't mention this. "Koch-funded magazine praises Cory Doctorow" doesn't fit his narrative.
 
Although I'm a more-or-less libertarian, I'm not on the same page as the Kochs politically. I'm fine with using the government to help poor people. I strongly suspect global warming is a real problem. The Kochs tend to emphasize libertarian issues that help rich people. I am most interested in peace and civil liberties issues, while the Kochs tend to focus on taxation and the size of government. 
 
But one reason I'm skeptical of the current smear campaign is that I've seen this movie before.
 
Last year, when the Kochs forced out the director of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, and put in their own guy, there were all sorts of predictions about how the Kochs would "ruin" Cato by purging the peace and civil liberties folks and turning it into a Republican propaganda machine, similar to the Heritage Foundation. I bought these stories and dutifully promoted them on Twitter.
 
As it turned out, there was no purge. My favorite Cato folks, people such as Julian Sanchez, Christopher Preble and Gene Healy, are still there. I still follow them on Twitter.

Comments

Contango

Two examples of liberal media owners:

Warren Buffett and the Sulzbergers (NY Times).

Politically connected owners of news media is as old as the Republic.

Licorice Schtick

A rare breed. Most media is controlled by Republicans; they have more money. "Liberal media" is a myth from Republican propagandists. Mainstream media, on balance, has a conservative bias. Two kinds of people say otherwise: liars and suckers.

Nemesis

Really? Which media companies, other than Fox/NewsCorp are controlled by Republicans?

ABC/Disney? Nope.
NBC? Nope.
Most major Hollywood studios? Nope.

Come on, Licorice, name names.

Now The Rest of...

Which are you?

Erie Sniper

You couldn't be more wrong.

The Big Dog's back

Gee, what better way to silence any free thinking what so ever than to buy newspaper companies and fill them with right wing propaganda. Wall Street Journal comes to mind, right Rupert?

Licorice Schtick

Happens all the time BD. But Warren Buffet's pretty moderate. He actually thinks the ultra-rich, including himself, should pay more taxes. Of course, to the wingnuts, that's communism, which is pretty absurd, since Buffet is one of the most prominent capitalists on the planet.

Contango

Since the second plank of the Communist Manifesto is a progressive income tax, your argument has some merit.

BTW: It's "Buffett" with two "t"s

Most of Mr. Buffett's assets are tax favored.

He also intends to leave his estate to charity, thus escaping the federal estate tax.

Why should he get to choose?

Wouldn't ya think that a good "moderate" would wanna pay his "fair share"?

Nemesis

Buffett talks out of one face about raising taxes on OTHER rich people, even as he is in tax court contesting his taxes for the past few years, and not paying them in the meantime.

SamAdams

Interesting how that works, ain't it? Well, Big Dog? What'cha got NOW?

goofus

Never forget if Buffett wants to pay more taxes, have him make out a check to the Treasury.

Contango

"Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has agreed to purchase 63 daily and weekly newspapers owned by Media General for $142 million, including titles in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama."

http://www.businessinsider.com/w...

And let us remember: The Washington Post and Bloomberg News.

Licorice Schtick

You're "...fine with using the government to help poor people"??? That's great! You're less of a libertarian & more of a liberal than you think, then, TJ. Own it and don't be brainwashed into being ashamed of it.

Just like some right-wingnuts have extreme or goofy ideas, so do some liberals. That does not make liberalism bad. Liberalism is newer and way ahead. It seeks to solve problems conservatism can not. Sometimes liberalism fails, sometimes it succeeds, but when it inconveniences then, conservatives want to "change it back," typically to a better past that never actually existed. The enemies of liberal ideals can't really make a solid case against it, so they have simply bought the necessary propaganda to turn "liberal" into a pejorative, an insult, a dirty word. And they didn't do it with a "liberal" media.

Lean forward, not backward.

Contango

"Liberalism is newer and way ahead"

Whatever that’s supposed to mean.

Regardless, the concept of govt. theft of private property through the use of force has been around for eons. Against such practice was one of the essential reasons for the founding of this country.

"Lean forward" too far and one eventually falls on one's face. :)

arnmcrmn

gallup poll.......The majority of Americans (60%) also continue to perceive bias, with 47% saying the media are too liberal and 13% saying they are too conservative, on par with what Gallup found last year. The percentage of Americans who say the media are "just about right" edged up to 36% this year but remains in the range Gallup has found historically.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/14962...

Cant deny the facts.

grumpy

A poll on opinion is "facts"? Really?

Contango

The use of scientifically collected statistical evidence to prove a point as opposed to the original purely anecdotal, emotionally charged and unsubstantiated statement.

Tom Jackson

Licorice Shtick (nice handle),

The original name for the folks who are now considered "libertarian" is "classical liberal." I sometimes think of myself as a classical liberal, although unfortunately nobody knows what that means.

Nemesis

Libertarians know what it means/meant. The founders were classically liberal.

Tom, if you want to help the poor, that's a noble sentiment. When you want to help the poor with OTHER PEOPLE's money forcibly taken at gunpoint, there's nothing noble about it. Note that libertarians and conservatives give far more to charity than leftists.

Licorice Schtick

"OTHER PEOPLE's money forcibly taken at gunpoint" is pretty silly rhetorical way of saying "tax."

Nemesis

It's totally accurate. Try not paying your taxes and see. You'll be escorted to prison by people with guns, and if you resist, they'll use them.

Licorice Schtick

OK, Tom, although "libertarian" today connotes something a bit beyond a classical liberal.

Both libertarians and conservatives tend to discount relative rights and prefer to assert their own rights at their neighbors' expense. Modern liberals value individual libery no less, they simply don't think it should create victims. Libertarians and conservatives blame their victims.

Where libertarians and liberals seem to find common ground most often these day is in their oppostions to social conservative's propensity to inflict their religious views upon others.

Liberals think think that even if someone chooses her parents poorly, she should have a fighting chance to secure economic security. Libertarians and conservative point to exceptions to claim there's no problem, but what they're REALLY thinking is, "meh."

Liberals think the most fortunate should all pitch in to help those who need it. Libertarians and conservative think helping should be "voluntary," which really means "someone else."

I still think you're more of a liberal than you admit. Say, center-left.

Now The Rest of...

Far left wackos, planning on their yearly shearing of the legs, keeps the grey straight hair to save the environment. They know that everyone agrees with their political views, they ask their 12 cats for their views on a regular basis..

Contango

@ LS:

Reads like a gross misunderstanding of both libertarianism as well as liberalism (progressivism), which is today more akin to Fabian socialism.

The early Twentieth Century American Progressives understood that progressivism was socialism.

grumpy

A poll on opinion is dependent on the questions asked, the number of people asked, the demographics of the people asked, among other variables. It is accurate for the people asked, when you try to use it to cover all people's opinions it falls apart. Many people who are called on the phone will either lie, which is what I do when called for a poll, or don't bother to answer. Those who don't bother to answer usually are of one opinion, where those who answer are more across the board. Started lying about my opinions several years ago, as have several people I know. Such things tend to throw the accuracy of polls off.

Nemesis

That's a real smart thing to do, IF you want to help inflate the perceived support for positions you oppose. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

grumpy

Only if you believe polls. It has been shown, time and again that the way the question is asked can change the results of a poll 5 to 10 points. A poll of several thousand let alone only several hundred, cannot be accurate when projected to 300 million+ population. Polls are a crutch for media, and those who cite polls, it gives them a story to write about. Instead of having to dig into the issue. There are few investigative reporters anymore. It is easier to have a poll and report on the poll instead of dig for facts and the truth. Opinions on something not backed by facts is worth what? It simply shows that people don't know what the issue is about, they vote what their political party, usually the extremists, try to push, both, or all parties.

goofus

And we all know the story about the poll Obozo kept quoting like 93% wants gun control.

grumpy

Actually the President said that 93% would agree to background checks. That is not a specific question, it is general. Much fewer people wanted what the Senate bill, with amendments, and specific limits and specific language, was not what the 93% would agree to. That is just another example of pi$$ poor polling. Ask a general question and then when the specifics comes out it is not enough for some and way too much for others, or the issues that some wanted weren't in the finalized bill. As I said earlier, the way a question is asked can change the outcome of the poll.

SamAdams

There's only ONE legitimate way to statistically analyze poll results: You must have a minimum participation (about 2,250, as I recall); those participants must be TRULY random; and the questions can't lead toward any particular answer. The vast majority of polls these day meet NONE of those criteria let alone ALL of them.

And yes, you make another really valid point when you suggest that an ignorant person can't really be indicative of anything remotely factual in any kind of a poll. Anybody remember the story where somebody wandered around a college campus gathering petition signatures to make a "dangerous substance," one that "causes many deaths annually," illegal? They called it by by an accurate albeit fabricated scientific name (dihydrogen monoxide). And MASSIVE numbers of those they questioned were in complete agreement that WATER should be illegal, or at least strictly regulated! So much for poll results...

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