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The Kochs’ Paranoid Style

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"The Kochs’ Paranoid Style"

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I think it’s often assumed that a lot of this “OMG socialism Obama is the end of liberty!” stuff is just for yahoos being manipulated by sophisticated moneymen who know better. But one of the more interesting threads to emerge from Kate Zernicke’s article about a Koch-convened conclave of rightwing billionaires is that the culture of wildly overstated rhetoric seems to be part and parcel of the internal narrative of the conservative super-elite:

With a personalized letter signed by Charles Koch, the invitation to the four-day Rancho Mirage meeting opens with a grand call to action: “If not us, who? If not now, when?” The Koch network meets twice a year to plan and expand its efforts — as the letter says, “to review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it.” [...]

The participants in Aspen dined under the stars at the top of the gondola run on Aspen Mountain, and listened to Glenn Beck of Fox News in a session titled, “Is America on the Road to Serfdom?” (The title refers to a classic of Austrian economic thought that informs libertarian ideology, popularized by Mr. Beck on his show.)The participants included some of the nation’s wealthiest families and biggest names in finance: private equity and hedge fund executives like John Childs, Cliff Asness, Steve Schwarzman and Ken Griffin; Phil Anschutz, the entertainment and media mogul ranked by Forbes as the 34th-richest person in the country; Rich DeVos, the co-founder of Amway; Steve Bechtel of the giant construction firm; and Kenneth Langone of Home Depot.

I suppose I don’t begrudge rich businessmen the opportunity to hang out with one another throwing a weird pity party about how overtaxed they are. But it strikes me as almost self-refuting for a bunch of billionaires to be chilling at a lavish resort talking about how Barack Obama has somehow done away with American liberty. At the end of the day the Kochs’ biggest policy priority is that they want to continue to get away with profiting from un-taxed air pollution externalities. It’s what any rich businessman in a polluting line of work would want, but it’s hardly a question that goes to the core of human freedom.

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