FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Koch Bros., ALEC and the Power of the State

by KEVIN CARSON

Were there an awards show for unintentional howlers, Charles Koch’s statement in a Forbes interview last December (“Inside the Koch Empire: How the Brothers Plan to Reshape America,” December 5, 2012) would surely be a nominee. “Most power is power to coerce somebody,” he said. “We don’t have the power to coerce anybody.”

No, but the government sure does. Maybe that’s why the Koch Brothers put so much money into lobbying groups and think tanks like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Heritage Foundation whose main purpose is to influence government policy.

“Oh,” but you say. “They’re not looking to make money through increased government coercion. Far from it! They’re just lobbying government to get out of the economy so they can take their chances competing on their merits in an unfettered market economy.”

Well … not quite.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.

The legislative agenda pursued by groups like ALEC, Heritage, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute isn’t exactly libertarian. At least not if, by “libertarian,” you mean anything more principled than “whatever big business wants from government to make it profitable.”

As an example, consider so-called “Ag-Gag” bills  – written by ALEC — that  prohibit undercover journalists from exposing animal abuse within corporate agribusiness. This past year such bills were introduced in nine states and signed into law in three.

The Koch Brothers are also enthusiastic advocates (to say the least) of the Keystone XL pipeline, standing to make billions from the project if it’s completed. Needless to say, Keystone’s route depends heavily on the use of eminent domain to steal land from family farmers, and Keystone’s government backers have run roughshod over Indian lands (including sacred burial grounds) guaranteed by treaty. Last I heard, eminent domain is only possible through coercion — you know, that thing David Koch said he lacks the ability to do.

The Keystone project is also heavily dependent on regulatory state preemption of ordinary common law standards of civil liability for the air and groundwater pollution and health damage fracking causes to surrounding communities. And the Koch brothers are also prominent cheerleaders for “tort reform” — i.e., making it more difficult to hold corporations liable for their wrongdoing and make them pay for the harm they’ve caused.

So the actual pattern we see is the Koch brothers and their pet think tanks actively encouraging a near-totalitarian level of state intervention to suppress all the mechanisms of civil society — investigative journalism by a free and independent press, a vigorous system of civil liability, etc. — that would help keep business honest and hold it accountable. Hardly surprising, when you consider Koch Industries got its start building oil refineries for Joseph Stalin. Say, now — he had the power to coerce, didn’t he?

While we’re at it, ALEC has actively lobbied for the draconian drug laws and for detention of “illegal aliens” [sic] that are so profitable to its sponsors like CCOA, Wackenhut and other private prison corporations. That doesn’t sound too libertarian, does it?

And how about David Addington’s new No. 3 role at Heritage? Addington was Dick Cheney’s go-to guy for writing legal memos on stuff like indefinite detention, torture, and warrantless surveillance. You can see why a guy like that would be a perfect fit for a think tank that’s all about “limited government” and “restoring the Constitution.” All sarcasm aside, I think you can see that people like this have a very, um, skewed idea of what “freedom” means.

The role of people like Charles and David Koch, and of think tanks like ALEC, AEI and Heritage, in the larger free market libertarian movement is a lot like that of the Pharisees in the Judaism of Jesus’s time. “Whited sepulchres” and “generation of vipers” are some of the terms he used, I think.

The Pharisees, Jesus said, would cavil and split hairs for years on the finer points of the law, while utterly disregarding its spirit; they would tithe their very herbs, while putting their money into their day’s equivalent of tax-free nonprofit foundations to avoid taking care of their aged parents.

The corporate Pharisees of our day strain at a gnat using “free market” rhetoric to attack welfare for the poor, but swallow a camel when it comes to welfare for corporations. They claim to favor “economic freedom” and “free trade,” while putting the entire world under the totalitarian lockdown of draconian “intellectual property” law to guarantee their enormous monopoly rents. They complain that “taxation is theft,” while their mining and agribusiness corporations act in collusion with governments to kick the peoples of world off their land.

It’s time to scourge the money-changers from the temple.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail