Source: Campaign For America's Future
In a surprisingly self-pitying Wall Street Journal editorial , billionaire Charles Koch has put forward the proposition that the nation's "collectivists" have unfairly characterized him as "un-American."
What Koch calls "character assassination," however, others would describe as a simple recounting of the facts. Koch and his brother David are known for injecting massive amounts of their (partially inherited) wealth into the political process, academia, and propaganda in order to promote their right-wing (and self-serving) point of view.
But now that he's brought it up: Is Charles Koch really un-American?
I'm not comfortable answering that question myself. It promises to judge the person, rather than the deeds, and is all too reminiscent of the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee. (It's worth noting that, for a guy who resents being labeled, Koch is certainly quick to label his enemies "collectivists" -- a term which is strikingly reminiscent of McCarthyism.)
So let's turn the question over to an unimpeachable authority: Thomas Jefferson. He seems like an arbitrator all parties can agree upon. Koch even cites Jefferson in his own defense. Unfortunately, all that citation accomplishes is to make it painfully clear that Koch is no Jefferson scholar.
Koch cites the following line: "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." This out-of-context quote leaves the impression that Jefferson considered the growth of government antithetical to individual liberty. Not so. It comes from a letter Jefferson wrote to Edward Carrington on May 27, 1788. Jefferson wasn't saying that the government takes your liberty, but that liberty is lost when citizens become passive in the face of infringements on their rights.
The NSA, not the IRS, is the appropriate contemporary target for that line.
Jefferson was very clear in the Carrington letter about which type of "government" he found objectionable: hereditary rulership. In his day, hereditary rulers governed through monarchy. Today's unelected rulers, hereditary and otherwise, use their wealth to manipulate, corrupt, and control the political process.
Charles Koch may not understand Thomas Jefferson, but Thomas Jefferson would have understood Charles Koch very well. It was Jefferson, after all, who said the following:
"I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
While Jefferson rejected the aristocracy of money, the Koch brothers have taken the lead in organizing it. As a leaked confidential document revealed, they have aggressively courted other billionaires in order to create an organized network of right-wing political funders.
Now that's collectivism.
The Koch Collective has flooded the political system with cash at all levels. The Kochs themselves have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into extremist "think tanks" like the Ayn Rand Institute. Jefferson would have been repelled by Rand's vision of self-serving übermenschen and her contempt for charitable activities.
Wrote Jefferson: "To ourselves, in strict language, we can owe no duties, obligation requiring also two parties. Self-love, therefore, is no part of morality. Indeed, it is exactly its counterpart." (Emphasis ours)
Jefferson was no friend of the business class to which Charles Koch belongs. "Merchants have no country," said Jefferson. "The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains."
Why, it's almost as if he had predicted the Koch brothers' environmental record.
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