In Defense of the Kochtopus
The Koch empire versus the American empire
(AntiWar.com) -- by Justin Raimondo
Suddenly, the “Kochtopus” is in the news – a subject about which I have first hand knowledge. That’s because, for a year and a half or so in the late 1970′s, I was part of it: part of the “family” of organizations funded by Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in America. I wrote about this period at length in my 2000 biography of Murray Rothbard, An Enemy of the State, and thought I would never return to the subject again. Alas, history has caught up with the “Kochtopus,” as we used to call it with some bitterness mixed with affection, and today the Koch empire is the object of the Left’s vexatious attention, with the Kochs billed as “the billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama,” as Jane Mayer put it in a widely-cited piece in the New Yorker magazine.
The Obama network, otherwise known as MSNBC, has regularly railed against the nefarious influence of the Kochian conspirators, with all the subtlety of Pravda denouncing those Trotskyite wreckers and agents of the Mikado who are undermining the Revolution from within. State-controlled National Public Radio has joined the chorus, along with Frank Rich, who, from his perch at the New York Times, hurls invective at these “tycoons,” whose “radical agenda” is being covertly imposed on the country by the “invisible hands” of Big Business, personified by the brothers Koch. Rich cites the work of Kim Phillips-Fein, an assistant professor at New York University Gallatin School, whose book, Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan, seeks to debunk the populist credentials of the American Right by peddling a sophisticated conspiracy theory that posits the “invisible hands” of billionaires as the real force behind the such movements as the Tea Party and its predecessors. Sketching out a skeletal history of this nefarious, progress-resisting billionaires’ cabal, Rich traces their origin back to the American Liberty League, set up by Midwestern businessmen to oppose the New Deal:
“You can draw a straight line from the Liberty League’s crusade against the New Deal “socialism” of Social Security, the Securities and Exchange Commission and child labor laws to the John Birch Society-Barry Goldwater assault on J.F.K. and Medicare to the Koch-Murdoch-backed juggernaut against our ‘socialist’ president.”
What Rich, Mayer, and the other chroniclers of the “Invisible Hands” behind the libertarian-conservative movement elide from their pocket history is the one factor that sets the Kochs apart from post-cold war conservatives (and liberals), and that is their untrammeled anti-militarism. The Cato Institute, which was started with Koch money, stood almost alone in Washington against the first Iraq war [.pdf], and staunchly opposed the more recent invasion – just as they oppose Obama’s wars in Afghanistan [.pdf] and beyond. Cato has also stood up for our civil liberties, opposing the PATRIOT Act, and the whole panoply of post-9/11 repressive measures initiated by the Bush administration and expanded by Obama. Right after 9/11, the Koch brothers gave the ACLU $20 million to fight off the Bushies’ assault on the Constitution (George Soros gave half as much).
The Kochs stand at the end of a long albeit virtually unknown tradition. The American Liberty League, which Rich and his ideological allies disdain, was financed by many of the same businessmen who later founded the biggest organized peace movement in our history, the America First Committee. A thoroughgoing anti-interventionism motivated these men, as much as horror at what Roosevelt was doing on the home front.
Contrary to Rich’s assertion that the Liberty Leaguers were a bunch of reactionary Republicans, in fact they were mostly dissident Democrats, such as League chairman Jouett Shouse, a GM executive, former chairman of the Executive Committee of the Democratic Party. The leadership included two former Democratic presidential candidates, Alfred E. Smith and John W. Davis, and John Raskob, another GM executive and former Democratic national chairman...
It was, at the time, a valid fear: the President had tried to pack the Supreme Court in order to push through his program, and the spectacle of various “isms” of a totalist nature marching across Europe and Asia was enough to invest this fear with a certain immediacy. Today, as we wage endless global war, and the trustification of the American economy proceeds apace under President Obama, this same fear is rising up from the populist grassroots, much to the chagrin of Frank Rich and the entire political class in Washington and New York, which dreads any popular expression of outrage at the depredations of government. Why can’t the hoi polloi just shut up and take their medicine? After all, we know what’s good for them.
Posing as populists, however fake, Rich and his friends in the administration can’t hope to make any progress with that line, so they came up with this tycoons-against-government narrative, which seeks to create a conspiracy theory in order to explain rising popular opposition to the Obama-ite agenda of Big Government and perpetual war...MORE...LINK