Charles Koch in his Own Words and His Obama Problem
An op-ed by Charles Koch appeared in the April 3 issue of the Wall Street Journal. It was titled, “I'm fighting to Restore a Free Society.” The article begins with the claim that he has devoted his life to “understanding the principles that enable people to improve their lives – the principles of a free society – that have shaped my life, my family, our company and America itself.”
Then he goes on to define those principles as “dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom” principles that are “under attack by the nation's own government.” How so? “The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism;” a term not used in current debate but is a conflation of classical socialism and “nanny government” on steroids.
Then follows a laundry list of accusations against the Obama administration and how they strive to “discredited and intimidated” and engage in character assassination aimed at him personally. Jefferson, Schopenhauer, Alinsky and Moynihan are all given bit parts in making the case for the “hell” the Obama administration is forcing the American people into. What follows then is a litany of how Koch Industries is exemplary in every way: from how it treats it employees, the environment, and fights corporate subsidies.
The article ends with the classical “more government means less liberty” meme and how “love of liberty is the American ideal” and his belief that if more businesses and elected officials “were to embrace a vision of creating real value for people in a principled way, our nation would be far better off” and how he is “dedicated to fighting for that vision.”
So, what are the take-aways from this op-ed. The first is the seemingly inability of Charles to be self-reflective. He writes as if he was just Mr. Average American struggling to make ends meet instead of the child of wealth and privilege. The “free” society in his mind is being able to have whatever his heart desired, not the “free” society which included the real possibility of not having a job tomorrow because his employer was “free” to fire him at will. Is this the musings of self-delusion or a self-conscious effort to affect an “average man” persona for political purposes? If the former, we are left with the evidence of stunted psychic development; if the latter, hypocrisy personified.
The second take-away is the sense of personal victimization. The Obama administration does not understand him. He has spend decades in constructing a universe that reflects the world view that reflects the only station of life that he knows and nobody is saluting his flag! “Rather than try to understand my vision for a free society or accurately report the facts about Koch Industries, our critics would have you believe we're 'un-American' and trying to 'rig the system'...” It is a toss-up whether this is more arrogance – Listen to me. I am smart because I am rich! – or self-pitying because he has to spent tons of money to get the big boys in Washington to let him play with them and they continue to ignore him. Or is this just the cry of a a modern King Midas, who finds that nothing he touches gives him what he desperately wants: recognition and self-respect not, somehow, related to his money!
And lastly, and perhaps the most pathetic of the take-aways in the total absence of any idea of responsibility and gratitude for what America has given him. This article could be written by a high school sophomore, with all the depth of understanding of the complexities of a modern society and the overweening self-absorption. It is devoid of any sense of giving. It is said that everyone is either a guest or host. Poor Charles is so deprived that he can think of nothing but having his way, being the center of attention and having others wait on him. He is the perfect example of Paul Ryan's taker.
I guess, at the end of the day, this op-ed should be seen more as the cry of a deprived soul than the manifesto of an American patriot and better suited for Psychology Today than the WSJ.