Perhaps the best commentary on the recent conference sponsored by Charles and David Koch in California comes from Timothy P. Carney of the Washington Examiner. Titled The Kochs vs. Soros: Free markets vs. state coercion, it explains the difference between advocates of free enterprise and those who believe in using the force of government to achieve their goals.
At the conference, protests were arranged by the left-wing advocacy group Common Cause. That organization recently launched an attack on Charles Koch, David Koch, and two U.S. Supreme Court Justices that has been found to be baseless and nothing more than a publicity stunt.
After tracing the source of funding for Common Cause, Carney concluded: “In other words, money from billionaire George Soros and anonymous, well-heeled liberals was funding a protest against rich people’s influence on politics.”
Liberals, of course, contend that their political donates are good because their causes are the correct causes: “Conservative money is bad, and linked to greed, while liberal money is self-evidently philanthropic.”
While I don’t want to repeat Carney’s entire piece here — there’s a link to it below — here’s the crux of his argument: “… while Soros money and Koch money are superficially equivalent, there’s a crucial distinction. If we take both sides at their word, Soros and other liberal donors spend in order to impose their preferences on others while the Kochs and other free-market donors spend in an effort to be left alone to buy and sell with willing parties. The moral difference is this: Only one side is trying to compel others to conform to its preferences.”
Carney has written before about the political left’s presumption — that big business is evil and is always seeking to restrain government interference — being incorrect. In his 2006 book The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money , Carney explains:
The standard assumption seems to be that government action protects ordinary people by restraining big business, which, in turn, wants to be left alone. The facts point in an entirely different direction:
- Enron was a tireless advocate of strict global energy regulations supported by environmentalists. Enron also used its influence in Washington to keep laissez-faire bureaucrats off the federal commissions that regulate the energy industry.
- Philip Morris has aggressively supported heightened federal regulation over tobacco and tobacco advertising. Meanwhile, the state governments that sued Big Tobacco are now working to protect those same large cigarette companies from competition and lawsuits.
- A recent tax increase in Virginia passed because of the tireless support of the state’s business leaders, and big business has a long history of supporting tax hikes.
- General Motors provided critical support for new stricter clean air rules that boosted the company’s bottom line.
Most important, in these and hundreds of similar cases, the government action that helps big business hurts consumers, taxpayers, less established businesses, and smaller competitors. Following closely what big business does in Washington reveals a very different story from conventional wisdom.
While critics of Charles Koch, David Koch, and Koch Industries use the “big business” criticism — Koch Industries is a very large company, after all — there is a difference the critics can’t — or don’t want to — grasp, as Carney explains in the Washington Examiner article: “First off — and this was the point of a talk I gave Sunday at the Koch conference — many of the industrialists in the audience could profit more through regulations and subsidies than they could through the free market. Some oil executives, for example, have supported California’s strict refinery regulations because they kept out competitors. Natural gas companies like Enron have backed cap and trade because it hurt oil and coal. As for bankers — the Wall Street bailouts made it clear that big government is their mother’s milk.” (emphasis added)
Carney’s book The Big Ripoff is blunt and detailed in its criticism of companies that use government to obtain special favor to enrich themselves. Yet, he spoke at the Koch conference, and has spoken at other similar events in the past.
The Kochs vs. Soros: Free markets vs. state coercion
By Timothy P. Carney
Palm Springs, California — At the front gates of the Rancho Las Palmas resort, a few hundred liberals rallied Sunday against “corporate greed” and polluters. They chanted for the arrest of billionaires Charles and David Koch, and their ire was also directed at the other free market-oriented businessmen invited here by the Koch brothers to discuss free markets and electoral strategies.
Billionaires poisoning our politics was the central theme of the protests. But nothing is quite as it seems in modern politics: The protest’s organizer, the nonprofit Common Cause, is funded by billionaire George Soros.
Common Cause has received $2 million from Soros’s Open Society Institute in the past eight years, according to grant data provided by Capital Research Center. Two panelists at Common Cause’s rival conference nearby — President Obama’s former green jobs czar, Van Jones, and blogger Lee Fang — work at the Center for American Progress, which was started and funded by Soros but, as a 501(c)4 nonprofit “think tank,” legally conceals the names of its donors.
In other words, money from billionaire George Soros and anonymous, well-heeled liberals was funding a protest against rich people’s influence on politics.
When Politico reporter Ken Vogel pointed out that Soros hosts similar “secret” confabs, CAP’s Fang responded on Twitter: “don’t you think there’s a very serious difference between donors who help the poor vs. donors who fund people to kill government, taxes on rich?”
In less than 140 characters, Fang had epitomized the myopic liberal view of money in politics: Conservative money is bad, and linked to greed, while liberal money is self-evidently philanthropic.