Monday, June 9, 2014

Quick thoughts on the Koch donation

Just like with the hospital donation a couple weeks ago, libertarians are twitterpated that the Kochs donated to the United Negro College Fund. But they're not just excited, they've (or at least half a dozen reasonably well known libertarians with an internet presence on my facebook feed) been making big pronouncements about leftist critics of the UNCF donation. I am still not sure exactly who these leftist critics are. In trolling through I can only find Dan Bier linking to "#Koch" on Twitter, and when I click on it (as I write this) I only see one person in the top results even mentioning the UNCF donation critically (and to be fair to that twitterer they're actually not criticizing the donation at all they're using the opportunity to criticize the Kochs). So none of this seems like the groundswell of opposition some libertarians are implying (which makes sense, because to be honest it seems a little stupid to expect a groundswell of criticism), but the fact is it is out there in today's news cycle at least.

I always find this strange. I don't personally mind the UNCF donation at all or the hospital donation. In fact I wish they gave all their donations to those sorts of things. The world would be a better place if they did. But even though I don't mind that, I can still have a sour view on the Kochs. I don't see why the sorts of libertarians that react to this have such a hard time grasping that what we don't like about the Kochs is not their good donations but their bad donations.

Second, whenever this comes up libertarians love to drone on about how the Kochs support gay marriage and oppose the drug war. I also find this reaction strange too. First nobody criticizes the Kochs for that presumably because that's not what they have a problem with. Second, do libertarians ever suddenly decide that leftists are a good influence on American society because they support the gay marriage and oppose the drug war? Of course not. So why would they expect liberals to suddenly warm up to the Kochs because they finally got something right on those issues?

Third, the only place I ever hear about the Kochs' support for gay marriage and the drug war is from libertarians. The really huge, well publicized stuff from the Kochs seems to be oppositions to progressive taxation, health reform, progress on climate change, and of course their support for libertarian leaning academic economics, political science, philosophy, etc. Maybe it's all selection effect (i.e. - the media only chooses to report on that stuff), but there are plenty of competing media outlets and the Kochs have the resources to push their own priorities. So chances are the Kochs care a lot more about those things that we hear about outside of libertarian defense pieces than they do about gay marriage or ending the drug war.


  1. Rather than measuring based on media coverage, wouldn't it make more sense to measure based on dollars?

    1. Maybe. Different production functions in different venues. Is a million dollars worth of hospital comparable to a million dollars worth of academic articles or campaign donations?

      Plus the publicity is often what you're buying in these things, particularly when you're comparing gay marriage and drug wars to progressive taxation and health reform.

      It would be interesting to see dollars (and I'm guessing the straight charitable donations dwarf everything else in that realm), but I think you'd need more of an argument than that to ultimately conclude something.

  2. A critique of unnamed libertarians complaining about unnamed leftists. Another quality post, Daniel.

    1. Well I named one libertarian, the one that has a public statement on the matter. I'm not going to repost facebook commentary unless I know the person's privacy setting and this really isn't worth checking everyone's privacy setting to furnish you with a list.

      But congrats on being one of the lowest value-added comments I've had in a while. Since my posting has slowed down the trolls have lost interest. Your comment brings me back to the good old days.

  3. There is a new book out about the four Koch brothers. It treats them as flesh and blood human beings.

    Anyway, surely it is the case that some libertarians wish to promote the Kochs in certain ways on significant part because some lefties wish to promote them as inhuman monsters (read Salon for that treatment). Some libertarians (like myself) find a lot of this rather bizarre but at the same time will defend the Kochs against some of the more unhinged commentary from the left.


  5. "I can still have a sour view on the Kochs. I don't see why the sorts of libertarians that react to this have such a hard time grasping that what we don't like about the Kochs is not their good donations but their bad donations."

    Would you care to explain what you consider "good" donations v. "bad" donations? And how (or if) that difference might play when you consider the donations of any other wealthy person? I.e., do you single out the Kochs or do you apply your standards for "good" v. "bad" to anyone's and everyone's contribution activities?

    I may have missed an explanation in an earlier post or comment; if so, apologies for asking you to repeat yourself.


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