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Remainders: The Koch Brothers

By Matthew Yglesias on August 30, 2010 at 9:14 am

"Remainders: The Koch Brothers"

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8. Charles and David Koch 1

Jane Mayer’s article on Charles and David Koch in the New Yorker is worth reading. My colleague Lee Fang has been all over this beat for quite a while now and continues to be the person to read for the nitty-gritty. But let’s do big picture on this subject.

The orthodox view among American conservatives and libertarians and “free market” advocates more generally is that if I want to walk up to the edge of my lawn and then turn my garden hose on and start messing up your lawn, than the correct capitalist response is to say that I’m doing something wrong. If I totally wreck your garden, that’s worse. If I spray water into your house and wreck your stuff, that’s worse too. Even if your house is kind of dumpy and poor and not worth very much money, it’s still wrong for me to just randomly spray water into it. Even if I really really enjoy spraying your house, it’s still wrong. I either need to stop spraying your house or else I need to reach an agreement with you about how I’m going to compensate you for the right to spray. If I insist on continuing to spray your house with water without mutual acceptable compensation, then shutting my operation down should be a matter of some social priority.

That’s the orthodox view. It’s also the orthodox view among American conservatives, libertarians, and “free market” fans that the situation regarding greenhouse gas emissions doesn’t share any important features in common with the parable you find above. I think that if Bangladeshi peasants played the role in financing right-of-center political activity in the United States that the Koch Brothers play, the situation would probably be different.

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