by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
An “infamous right-wing billionaire,” L. A. Weekly called him. In announcing Koch’s death on Friday, the New York Times described him as a funder of the “right-wing libertarian movement.”
Is there a “right-wing libertarian movement”? And was David Koch emblematic of it?
Koch was for many years a trustee of Reason magazine and a benefactor of the kind of politics associated with it. I am not at all sure that if the term “right-wing” today means anything at all it means something that includes former Reason editor Nick Gillespie or current Reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward. Koch himself was a supporter of gay rights, abortion rights, drug legalization, and much else that does not fit very comfortably on the current “right wing” agenda, although to be sure that political calculus gets pretty complicated pretty quickly: There are a fair number of libertarian-minded conservatives who, though they object to abortion on libertarian grounds (that it violates the rights of the unborn child), take a much more liberal attitude toward the private lives of consenting adults.
But the part of David Koch’s career in public life that may be most offensive to the contemporary incarnation of the “right wing” isn’t the drugs or the abortion or the gay rights, or anything else on the current policy agenda.
It’s the ballet.