The billionaire CEO of Koch Industries has mostly stayed out of the limelight, choosing instead to remain behind the scenes, donating money to politicians who share his vision of smaller government but avoiding publicity as much as possible—that is, until recently.
Charles Koch, author of the new book, Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World’s Most Successful Companies, sat down with Yahoo Finance editor-in-chief Andy Serwer to explain why he’s finally decided to step off the sidelines and into the public fray.
“I always followed what the mama said to the baby whale. She said, ‘Son, the time you got harpooned is when you spout[ed] off.’ So, I’ve followed that, and what I didn’t realize is my body was full of harpoons already, so what difference would it make if it got a few more?”
Part of the mission of Koch’s book is to correct the record about his philosophy on business and politics. Koch believes “good profit” is generated through efficient free markets, rather than “corporate welfare” that is doled out by the government in the form of tax breaks and local pork projects. Those projects benefit a few, rather than the greater good, in Koch’s view.
But that message has been twisted, according to Koch. “We needed to tell our story, because it was being totally distorted,” he said. “Most of the things said about us, the opposite was true.”
So why have Charles and his brother David Koch become such lightning rods?
Critics charge that Charles and David Koch are trying to buy influence to boost their own profits. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders has called the billionaire brothers “greedy.”
The two brothers are a regular feature in Sanders’s stump speech, in which he says they will spend more money in this election cycle than either the Democratic or Republican parties. The Washington Post “Fact Checker” column called the statement “wildly off base.”
When asked why he believes he and his brother are targeted, Koch says fear plays a part. “Those who advocate government controlling people’s lives do not like competition; they do not like a marketplace of ideas,” he says. “They are apparently afraid to debate and have a national conversation on these ideas: which is better, which is a more just system, which will help people improve their lives better? And so they’re trying to shut down all opposition.”
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