Rand Paul is supposed to be the new, hip ‘libertarian’ alternative to the usual right wing culture warriors, but he’s becoming less of the former and more of the latter all the time. Last week, TIME Magazine published its list of “100 Most Influential People,” and Sen. Paul turned in a short blurb for Charles and David Koch that reads like material he cribbed from a Koch Industries hagiography.
Charles and David Koch are well known for their business success, their generous philanthropic efforts and for their focus on innovation in management. Some also know them for their activism in the political realm. All of these are important contributions to society. What is underappreciated is their passion for freedom and their commitment to ideas. Unlike many crony capitalists who troll the halls of Congress looking for favors, the Kochs have consistently lobbied against special-interest politics.
Get that? The two guys whose names are most synonymous with the astroturfing of tea parties, who have impressed their private agenda on the GOP, who plan to rival the entire Republican Party in political spending next year, and who tried turning welfare rancher Cliven Bundy’s armed revolution into a political cause for the richest .01% of Americans — those guys are “against special-interest politics.” It’s hard to find two people who’ve done more to atomize American society, since so much of their ‘libertarian’ cash has wound up as authoritarian spending.
The biggest ‘contribution’ Charles and David Koch make to American discourse are the 24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases they produce every year; their second biggest ‘contribution’ is the climate change denial machine. ALEC, their legislation mill, is responsible for hundreds of cookie-cutter bills that have actually been passed by state legislatures to promote right wing politics and corporate weal. The Kochs will put their money behind anything that moves this agenda, even Holocaust revisionism, and while they give lip service to criminal justice reform they actually spend money to oppose reform and promote private prisons. What was that about “special interests”?
Of course, what Rand Paul actually means is that the Kochs are the most special interest in America. And it’s probably true for him, since for decades now they’ve personally funded the political movement which has made it possible for a Republican to wear the ‘libertarian’ label. That makes them special all by itself:
For decades they have funded institutes that promote ideas, not politics, such as Cato and the Mercatus Center. They have always stood for freedom, equality and opportunity. Consistent with their love of liberty, they have become prominent advocates for criminal-justice reform. The Koch brothers’ investment in freedom-loving think tanks will carry on for generations, reminding all of us that ideas and convictions ultimately trump all else.
Ah, yes, the Cato Institute…which had Bush torture memo writer John Yoo on its editorial board, where he presumably pushed waterboarding as ‘an idea instead of politics.’ In fact, the George W. Bush administration had many Cato alumni on hand to push for radical reorganization of government. Insofar as the Cato Institute is ‘independent’ of the GOP, it is another outside group which works to push the party’s agenda as far to the right as possible on economic policy issues. And if the Koch brothers’ iron-fisted control tactics towards the “freedom-loving” Cato Institute are any indication, its primary mission is to enact their private vision (“ideas and convictions”) as public policy, maximizing their private capital returns. “Special interests” indeed!
The Mercatus Center is another example of how Charles and David Koch seek to impress this ‘freedom’ on everyone else. Established at George Mason University, the Center is just one star in the constellation of academic institutions the Kochs have suborned over the years with large amounts of money, transforming campuses into propaganda manufacturing centers and inflicting their deluded economic theology on young minds. Mercatus is also a good example of how the Kochs leverage their right wing billionaire friends to multiply the effects of their own spending. Is there an interest in the world more “special” than billionaires?
Of course, all of this is perfectly normal to a ‘libertarian’ like Rand Paul because the political brand name masks the true nature of the philosophy at work: it’s anarchism for the rich. Charles and David Koch learned their politics from Robert LeFevre, whose famous “Freedom School” taught lessons on autarchy — the abolition of all government except for the individual, making everyone their own dictatorship and reducing all society to a kind of right wing syndicalism. (Of course, LeFevre had only survived the Great Depression because of those terrible government relief programs.) Based in Colorado, in concept LeFevre’s failed dream community resembled Galt’s Gulch, the magical make-believe wonderland of strangely Marxist bliss where Ayn Rand’s fictional ‘producers’ hid out from the maddened ‘moochers’ in the world of Atlas Shrugged.
Sen. Rand Paul, who prefers to create his own ophthalmic certification board rather than submit to the indignities of regular recertification by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, definitely likes to make his own rules in the classic LeFevre mold. He’s his own best “special interest,” and so are the Kochs. You can tell how much he admires them for it.