A Saturday op-ed in the Lawrence Journal-World begins with: “What is it, or why is it, that the name Koch, particularly here in Lawrence and Kansas, seems to trigger such angry, passionate and negative responses from a certain segment of the community, particularly among some at Kansas University?”
It’s a good question. When people insert themselves into politics, there will be debate and criticism. I don’t think Charles and David Koch expect a free pass. But some of the online comments written in reaction to this op-ed show, however, that facts and reason won’t stand in the way of those who use demonization of Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, principals of Wichita-based Koch Industries, to advance their political agendas.
Simons’ op-ed is generally accurate in its depiction of Charles and David Koch, although the company says Koch has not contributed to FreedomWorks, as is reported. But the reader comments — that’s where things really go off the mark.
Here’s a comment that is representative of many: “They would use their wealth to suppress innovation and competition. It’s another case of ‘I’ve got mine, and I want to make sure you don’t get yours.’ Why don’t they set up a loan company to encourage small businesses? Why don’t they hire more workers and give their present workers more benefits? Instead they want to buy the government, so they can control things instead of empowering others.”
As to suppressing innovation and competition: For decades the Kochs have supported free markets and competition through capitalism, which are the engines of innovation, not barriers. Last year Charles Koch, in the Wall Street Journal, strongly advocated for capitalism over cronyism. On the relationship between government and business, he wrote that too many business firms have practiced “crony capitalism”: lobbying for special favors, subsidies, and regulations to keep competitors — who may be more efficient — out of the way.
While it’s more difficult than practicing cronyism, competing in open markets assures that firms that efficiently provide goods and services that consumers demand are the companies that thrive, Koch added. It is these efficient firms that raise our standard of living. When politically-favored firms are propped up and bailed out, our economy is weakened: “Subsidizing inefficient jobs is costly, wastes resources, and weakens our economy.”
The term ‘capitalism’ refers not just to markets for the exchange of goods and services, which have existed since time immemorial, but to the system of innovation, wealth creation, and social change that has brought to billions of people prosperity that was unimaginable to earlier generations of human beings. Capitalism refers to a legal, social, economic, and cultural system that embraces equality of rights and ‘careers open to talent’ and that energizes decentralized innovation and processes of trial and error. … Capitalist culture celebrates the entrepreneur, the scientist, the risk-taker, the innovator, the creator. … Far from being an amoral arena for the clash of interests, as capitalism is often portrayed by those who seek to undermine or destroy it, capitalist interaction is highly structured by ethical norms and rules. Indeed, capitalism rests on a rejection of the ethics of loot and grab. … Capitalism puts human creativity to the service of humanity by respecting and encouraging entrepreneurial innovation, that elusive factor that explains the difference between the way we live now and how generation after generation after generation of our ancestors lived prior to the nineteenth century.
The charge of “I’ve got mine, and I want to make sure you don’t get yours” is often leveled against the wealthy, and for some, that may drive their policies. It’s important to know, though, that the policies of economic freedom that the Kochs have promoted are more important to poor people than the wealthy. A glance at the Economic Freedom of the World reports confirms what history has taught us: Countries with market-based and free, or relatively free, economies become wealthy. Poor countries generally do not have market-based economies and therefore little economic freedom, although the ruling class usually lives well.
There is concern that economic freedom is on the decline in America, and that our future is threatened by this.
When the writer asks “Why don’t they set up a loan company to encourage small businesses?” I wold refer them to Koch Ventures and Koch Genesis, two companies that do this.
Finally — for this writer — comes the allegation that Charles and David Koch want to buy government “so they can control things instead of empowering others.” This charge is not supported by facts and what the Kochs have actually done for decades. Institutions founded or supported by the Kochs such as Cato Institute, Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and Americans for Prosperity Foundation are dedicated to limited government and personal liberty. This, along with their support of capitalism — which, as Palmer explained above, leads to freedom, creativity, and individual empowerment for everyone.
Another comment contained “In their ‘ideal’ libertarian world they could do what they want and pollute whenever they want.” This is yet another ridiculous charge.
A statement on the KochFacts website states “recent critics have also claimed that Koch is one of the nation’s top 10 polluters. This study confuses pollution with permitted emissions, which are carefully regulated by the U.S. EPA and other agencies. The index labels as ‘polluters’ Ford Motor, General Motors, GE, Pfizer, Eastman Kodak, Sony, Honeywell, Berkshire Hathaway, Kimberly Clark, Anheuser Busch and Goodyear — corporations, like Koch companies, with significant manufacturing in the U.S. Emissions, a necessary by-product of manufacturing, are strictly monitored and legally permitted by federal, state and local governments.”
Wait a minute: Didn’t the federal government take over General Motors? And GE and Berkshire Hathaway: Aren’t those run by personal friends of Barack Obama?
The reality is that if we want the things these companies make for us, we must accept some emissions — pollution, if you will. The good news, however, is that manufacturing has become much more efficient with regards to emissions, and Koch Industries companies have lead the way. One report from the company illustrates such progress: “Over the last three years, Koch Carbon has spent $10 million to enhance environmental performance, including $5 million for dust abatement at one of its petroleum coke handling facilities. These investments have paid off. In 2008, Koch Carbon’s reportable emissions were 6.5 percent less than in 2000, while throughput increased 10.4 percent.”
Even when Koch Industries does not agree with the need for specific regulations, the company, nonetheless, complies. Writing about an increase in regulation in the 2007 book The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company, Charles Koch explained the importance of regulatory compliance: “This reality required is to make a cultural change. We needed to be uncompromising, to expect 100 percent of our employees to comply 100 percent of the time with complex and ever-changing government mandates. Striving to comply with every law does not mean agreeing with every law. But, even when faced with laws we think are counter-productive, we must first comply. Only then, from a credible position, can we enter into a dialogue with regulatory agencies to determine alternatives that are more beneficial. If these efforts fail, we can then join with others in using education and/or political efforts to change the law.”
Koch companies have taken leadership roles in environmental compliance, explains another KochFacts page: “In 2000, EPA recognized Koch Petroleum Group for being ‘the first petroleum company to step forward’ to reach a comprehensive Clean Air Act agreement involving EPA and state regulatory agencies in Minnesota and Texas. Despite fundamental policy disagreements, then-EPA Administrator Carol Browner acknowledged Koch’s cooperation. She characterized the agreement as ‘innovative and comprehensive’ and praised the ‘unprecedented cooperation’ of Koch in stepping forward ahead of its industry peers.” Browner was no friend of industry, and had a “record as a strict enforcer of environmental laws during the Clinton years,” according to the New York Times.
These types of facts are not relevant to many of those who left comments to the Journal-World piece. To the political left, the facts must not be allowed get in the way of a useful political narrative.
Koch Industries and Koch brothers are assets to state
By Dolph C. Simons, Jr., Lawrence Journal-World.
What is it, or why is it, that the name Koch, particularly here in Lawrence and Kansas, seems to trigger such angry, passionate and negative responses from a certain segment of the community, particularly among some at Kansas University?
… The answer to the question at the beginning of this column is that the Kochs are conservatives, some would say “ultra conservatives.” They support organizations such as the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works. Their critics have been quick to try to fault them for supposedly funneling money to the tea party movement. Some say the brothers have given more than $100 million to these conservative organizations.
Charles and David Koch have been the lightning rods for liberal, anti-conservative forces in this country, and it is that likely liberal-leaning faculty members and administrators at KU, as well as at many other universities, have been critical of the Kochs in order to keep peace with their staffs.
The sad, phony or hard-to-understand part of this situation is that the two Koch brothers attribute the success of their family-owned business to the guiding principles espoused by their market-based management philosophy.
… Charles and David Koch have championed limited government, economic freedom and personal liberty and they have challenged excessive government spending. Their financial giving efforts — political and charitable, both personal and through their company and foundations — all have been lawful.
This being the case, it would seem KU officials, as well as other state officials, should be trying to work with Koch Industries, Charles and David Koch and their foundations on ways to benefit the university and the state. They should be trying to embrace the Kochs rather than acting as if they were pariahs.
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