When the history of the 21st century is written, historians will portray some as heroes and some as villains. It is rare, indeed, for the same person to have an opportunity in adult life to be seen as villain and yet have it wholly within his control to become a hero.
Yet such is the case with the Koch brothers. As history is being written by your actions, you would—as of now—fall into the villain column. The extent of your villainy is yet to unfold. But, with no change in course, you will now be tagged as the architects of the destruction of the environment, democracy and the Republican Party.
WOW! You say. How can we two brothers, Charles and David[i], be responsible for all that?
So, I will summarize how.
First, the environment. By far, this is the most serious legacy—obviously, without the environment we are all harmed, if not doomed. You own Koch Industries, reckoned by Forbes to be the second largest privately held company in the United States. Since you are heavily invested in fossil fuel production, you have not only enabled the world’s continued dependency on these fuels, you have fought environmental regulations at every turn. You help lead opposition to reducing greenhouse gases. Some of your activities were detailed in this story published in late 2011 in Bloomberg Markets Magazine.
Next, the Republican Party. It is now known that much of the funding and impetus in the formation of the so-called Tea Party came from you or organizations you set up and funded. The New Yorker detailed your political activities in Jane Mayer’s fascinating study. With the rise of the Tea Party, which continually pushes the Republican Party further and further to the far right, the county is becoming increasingly polarized. True, there are other causes of that polarization, but the coalescing influence of a kind of third party, which makes more and more in-roads into traditional Republican areas, does not result in a stronger Republican party. Combine that effect with the vaunted tendency of Tea Party darlings to eschew compromise (witness the rhetoric of someone such as Rand Paul) and the result is not one which makes the Republican Party stronger.
Finally, democracy. The Supreme Court bears the blame for the horrific decision in the Citizens’ United case, but you have taken full advantage of the ruling that (as in Mitt Romney’s memorable words) “corporations are people, my friend.” No limit is placed on money which can be given to super pacs which can practically buy elections. Maybe not buy in the sense of putting money in someone’s hand and saying “vote for so-and-so” but very nearly that. When who has the most money can determine the outcome of an election what we have is no longer a democracy.
So, here’s my challenge. Think how history will portray you. Think about the future of the world—of the lives of your children and grandchildren. Is making money so important to you that you don't care if the environment is ruined beyond recovery. Is controlling the outcome of elections so critical that you can't trust people to make their own decisions without your funding an ersatz political movement? Do you want your role as villains to be solidified? Or would you rather be heroes? The choice really is yours.