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The Sane and the Crazy

The Koch brothers have become the Rorschach test of American politics. They must marvel at the bizarre images that their names conjure up in the minds of the unhinged. Like Howard Dean, appearing yesterday on MSNBC’s Ed Show:

This is what Dean said:

He’s being financed by the Koch brothers, who just write fat checks from their booty they take in from all over the place. So he’s going to be responsible for two people. I sure wouldn’t mind being responsive to the millions of teachers all over America. At least they’re real Americans as opposed to these two guys who made a gazillion dollars and are using their money to influence the election system now.

So people who disagree with Howard Dean’s far-left politics aren’t “real Americans.” Of course, liberals would never question anyone’s patriotism, right?

Now on to the sane: NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton, whom we praised here as a solid and thoughtful conservative. Tarkenton can’t quite see what the fuss over the Koch brothers is all about:

This political season, there has been one business name that has been demonized and vilified above all others: the Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. They have been demonized as right-wing zealots, and I’ve even seen the work of scholars dismissed just because their organization has some connection to the Koch brothers.

The kneejerk attacks and venom that comes out whenever their names are even mentioned really bothers me, and it’s a sign of just how poisonous our political atmosphere is. I don’t know the Koch brothers personally, but I know people who do, and who know them well. And I’ve also been able to observe the things they do, and the way they conduct themselves publicly. Everything I’m seeing and hearing tells me that these are exemplary business leaders who we should be celebrating, not attacking.

Start by looking at how Koch Industries grew to become the juggernaut it is today. The family patriarch, Fred Koch, built the company on an innovative process he developed in the oil business. Then his sons grew the company the right way. They didn’t cozy up to the government for subsidies, handouts, or preferential treatment. Instead, they came up with great ideas that solved problems in the lives of people, ideas that provided real value. Their business empire was built on innovation, reinvention, and hard work, not cronyism. I greatly admire that! And they’ve donated millions to medical research and the arts, among other causes.

Now, the Koch brothers are more known for the money they spend on political activities. They fund a variety of think tanks and organizations, all dedicated to promoting free market practices and small government. And that is where they are demonized and tarred and feathered by their political opponents. But from everything I have ever seen, what is remarkable is that none of their political activities are dedicated to cronyism, setting their company up for a big windfall if it wins the debate. Rather, they are advocating for more competition, reduced barriers to entry for new players, and less connection between the board room and the DC halls of power, not a special place at the table.

The only reason for doing that is because they really believe in it. Why should we demonize people who deeply believe in something and do whatever they can to promote it? If the Koch brothers spent millions of dollars on politicians who would subsidize their products and outlaw their competitors, that would be wrong. But instead, they advocate for an end to market distortions, government interventions in the private sector, and cronyism in general. They’re not trying to get more of the government pie; they just really believe they have a vision to help America, because they love this country and the values it stands for. …

Since their business began, the Koch brothers have been part of the value-creating class, not the crony class of business owners.

So why do we vilify people who represent the greatness of America? Is it just because they have different political beliefs? It’s time to stop demonizing people who do things the right way and generate tremendous wealth—and value to all Americans. Those are the people we should celebrate, whether you agree with their politics or not!

If we want to preserve America as the great place it is, we need more entrepreneurs, more innovators—and a free market to foster them.

Fran Tarkenton may be “only” a football player, but he understands how the economy works–how America works–better than most of the politicians in Washington.

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