The Koch brothers

Jane Mayer has a great profile in the New Yorker about the Koch brothers, a pair of super-rich libertarians who use their money to fund political causes with the basic purpose of enriching themselves and their business (i.e., lower taxes on their fortune and less regulations for their pollution-prone companies).  You should read it— probably the most talked-about New Yorker article of the past few months– and it’s really stuff you should know (and Jane Mayer pretty much rules).   Obviously, a lot of interesting takes all over the blogosphere, but I most like Jon Chait’s take on how all the money has shaped the conservative agenda:

Conservatives are happy to acknowledge, and even celebrate, the role played by conservative donors in helping conservatives fight ideological battles against liberals. But they are loathe to acknowledge the role that conservative donors play in waging ideological battles within conservatism itself. I’d say conservative donors have made the conservative movement and the Republican Party far more responsive to the interests of corporations and high-income individuals. There is an unusually large supply of capital to finance propaganda extolling the benefits of lower taxes for the rich and casting doubt on proposals to account for the externality cost of carbon dioxide emissions. But you don’t see conservatives admitting that that fnancing has had an effect.

If all you knew about conservatism was its foundational ideological texts, you could just as easily imagine that conservatives would believe that it’s senseless to cut taxes without cutting spending, and that it would make perfect sense for the government to tax carbon emissions rather than something else, once science has established the harmful effects of such emissions beyond a reasonable doubt. That conservatism has evolved in a different direction owes a great deal to the interests of some its its richest donors.

And, if you’re more the auditory type, there was a great interview with Jane Mayer about the article on Fresh Air last week.  Listen.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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