Kochs Deny Ed Crane's Account of Moscow Speaking Snub


This is what Reason looked like back when Charles Koch and Ed Crane were disagreeing about what to tell the Soviets.

Last week I mentioned in this space a long Washingtonian article about the Koch/Cato legal feud that, among other things, depicted Cato President Ed Crane's musings that a September 1990 speaking snub to Charles Koch at a historic Cato conference in Moscow might have been the source of the think tank co-founders' fallout. Now the Kochs have responded to the article, on their ForABetterCato.com website. Here's a selection on the Moscow anecdote:

The truth: Charles Koch had no desire to speak, never asked to, and did not leave as a result of any disagreement.

In reality, Charles Koch's concern with the conference agenda was that it never addressed the difficulty of transforming a Communist economy to a free-market economy. Without a focus on these transition issues, Charles Koch believed the recommendations would backfire and lead to anything but a free economy (which is, indeed, what happened). When Charles Koch advised Crane of this, Crane discounted the problem and refused to make changes.

Equal time: The Save Cato page on Facebook.

David Koch sits on The Reason Foundation's Board of Trustees, and Reason collaborates constantly with The Cato Institute. Disclosures and other information can be found in my prior blog posts (in chronological order): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported earlier this week that several other think tanks are facing succession issues. Excerpt:

In the past 18 months, many of the leaders associated with institutions such as the Rand Corp., the Center for New American Security, the Asia Society, the Urban Institute and several other think tanks have stepped down or announced plans to do so.

Even Edwin Feulner — a founding trustee when the Heritage Foundation opened its doors in 1973 and president since 1977 — will be exiting.

NEXT: Estonian President Defends His Country's Economic Performance Against Krugman's Attack

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  1. Without a focus on these transition issues, Charles Koch believed the recommendations would backfire and lead to anything but a free economy (which is, indeed, what happened). When Charles Koch advised Crane of this, Crane discounted the problem and refused to make changes.

    ... So Koch's response is that current state of Russia is entirely the result of Ed Crane's poor topic selection at a conference 30 years ago...

    1. Koch's response is that time has shown that his concerns were well-founded, while Crane's dismissal of them shows poor judgment, and that in any event Crane's account of what happened is pure bunk.

      1. The failure of the Russian government to focus on the problems of transitioning to a free market certainly led to dire consequences. But that's not what Koch is claiming. He's claiming Ed Crane's failure to focus on the problems of transitioning to a free market led to dire consequences. I think he's overestimating the influence this particular conference had if he things a different range of topics would have had any measurable influence on the current state of affairs.

        1. I don't read it that way. To me, the concern was that if Russia didn't focus on transition issues, they were headed for trouble, and so the conference should be focussed on transition issues as well.

          I have a hard time believing Charles Koch believes that a Cato conference in Russia was actually going to set policy and drive results.

          1. Agreed. It took a Baltic revolution to set that ball truly in motion, and the former Soviet Union fell two years later. Look at Estonia now, for example, as well as many of the other former territories of the Russian Federation.

  2. This whole thing is like a bad high school breakup.

    1. Just what libertarianism didn't need when its credibility has inched up slightly.

      1. It's all part of our incredibly complex, multi-layered plan for world domination. *whips orphan polishing monocle*

      2. This is why nobody takes libertarians seriously.

        1. This is not why many don't take libertarianism seriously. The problem is, I fear, far more fundamental than some libertarians not having their act together.

          1. Herding cats.

            1. We're no more crazy than the psychos in the other parties. What's problematic is our message of gutting government and leaving people largely alone, even if they want to fuck their own lives up.

              1. No, it's not. It's separating, and I will repeat this as I believe it with every fibre of my being, the notion of prosperity and economic and personal liberty from the notion of The Guaranteed Favourable Outcome.

                Until that spigot is turned off, it will be difficult to make headway and libertarianism will rely on stupid social issues over economic ones.

              2. Someone commented the other day (paraphrased): "They know exactly what libertarianism is. It means you don't get free shit. People like free shit."

              3. There are just as many psychos in the Libertarian Party as there are in the Republican and Democrat parties. Unfortunately, the LP is a hundredth the size of either of the others, but with the same number of psychos.

                1. Come on, they blow the LP away in raw numbers.

          2. Guess I shoulda' added a smiley face?
            This is why nobody takes libertarians seriously.

            1. You fool! You raving Oriental idiot! There is a time and a place for everything, Cato! And this is it!

            2. Smiley faces?

              1. ^^This^^ is why nobody takes libertarians seriously.

                1. No. That is why nobody takes libertarians seriously.

        2. How is this different from any other party?

    2. Hugh Akston|6.7.12 @ 11:39AM|#

      This whole thing is like a bad high school breakup.

      NO ITS NOT!! YOU ARE! (breaks down crying) yOU NEVER LISTEN!!!

    3. did i hear somebody say "makeup sex"???

  3. Everytime I read these posts I can't help but think about the South Park Episode where the two best friends who built the time machine stopped talking to each other over a dispute about the correct number of original Star Trek episodes.

  4. I can't imagine a more productive fight for libertarians than this one.

  5. IN all seriousness. What is this fight about? What do they actually disagree on? Is this really about a bunch of petty personal bitches?

    1. Yes. It's a classic he said/he said. In fact, it reminds me of you and MNG. *giggles*

      I apologize, John. I couldn't resist.

      1. At least we made up once in a while. It wasn't all bad.


        1. Why would you ever make up with that prick? You have terrible judgement.

          1. Battered spouse syndrome.

          2. BTW, I think Mary is back prowling around on the Estonian thread. The "tough guy angry liberal douche" personality seems to be in control today.

    2. What is this fight about?

      Control of Cato.

      1. Control of Cato

        So Kochtopus vs. The Green Hornet?

        1. Don't be ridiculous. They're talking about Clouseau's man-servant.

          1. Does your dog bite, Pro L?

            1. I thought it was O.J.'s houseguest that was the totem in this balance of power. Much like the One Ring to Control Them All kinda libertarian gestalt sorcery.

      2. I know that. But what are they pissed at each other about.

        1. You know, if they'd both focus their anger on Lew Rockwell, we might finally make some progress!

          1. Maybe they could just get together, have a few drinks, then go find Rockwell in some dark ally in DC and take turns beating the living crap out of him, all the hard feeling would blow over.

            1. I don't know. I hear Rockwell is pretty fleet-footed.

              1. Didn't we actually get a definitive name on those things, or was it thought that guy was only one of several different authors?

                1. Yeah, we got a definitive name. Can't remember who it was, but some minor league guy I had never heard of. I lost the pool because I put my marker on Murray's name.

    3. Koch wants changes at Cato because of perceived ineffectiveness at moving forward with libertarian ideas (e.g., missed opportunities with the Tea Party movement, "liberaltarianism", dearth of relevant policy papers, etc). Koch says that Crane's flaccid leadership is the cause.

      Crane disagrees with him because KOCHTOPUS!!!!!! Or something; not really sure what, really.

      To be honest, I think Koch is in the right and has a better legal position, but it's a fight that libertarianism could do without.

      1. So this is really the top end of the Cosmotarians versus Team Red Shills civil war that is waged on the comment boards of Reason?

        1. Pretty much. Koch wants to load up Cato with Team Red shills. Ed Crane has grown used to running Cato as he sees fit, and doesn't like this plan.

          1. As with most things, they probably both have a point. I think Libertarians should have been out trying to co-opt the Tea Party rather than crying and whining about how it was filled with people they culturally didn't like. And for all of its faults, Liberaltarianism was something that had to be tried. You can't just write off large portions of the population. You have to try to win them over to your side.

      2. Sadly, IMO, there's not much that can be done. The vast majority just care much about libertarian principles. Most people only care about the freedom of their own pet cause, which is why the best hope is to build coalitions, allowing people to come to their own realizations.

      3. missed opportunities with the Tea Party movement

        There was no missed oppurtunities with the Tea Party, as their small government talk was just talk. Getting in bed with big government conservatives that like to pretend to be libertarians accomplishes nothing but discrediting libertarianism.

        1. So instead get in bed with really big government liberals. I know they never call except when they are out of power. But they are really into you Stormy.

          1. How about we not get in bed with anybody unless they're actually going to do something about our policy preferences?

        2. Sure there was. C4L got Rand Paul and Justin Amash elected, with the help of Tea Partiers. There were plenty of places where economic liberty made inroads, and Cato could have been part of that.

          In the meantime, it went bananas trying to find some good to wring out of "Occupy Whatever".

      4. Crane disagrees with him because KOCHTOPUS!!!!!! Or something; not really sure what, really.

        Crane thinks that Koch is more concerned with partisanship (i.e. getting more Republicans elected) than with ideology (i.e. furthering libertarian policy goals), and wants to turn the think tank into another PR organization that exists primarily to tell people how Republican chicken shit is really libertarian chicken salad.

        1. And that would keep them from telling people how Democratic bullshit is really steak.

          1. Your comment seems to be in English but lacks any meaning. Can you try again?

  6. This whole 'feud' is silly. Seriously, it's 22 years later and there's still all this animosity, which leads me to believe there has to be a lot more to this story. I suppose it could just be the result of two strong personalities with neither side wanting to be the first to back down. It's just difficult to see how they could have competing visions that are really so different as to lead to decades of vitriol.

    As far as the claim made in this particular blog, I find it very difficult to believe that Koch's brand of CATO-inspired intervention would have had such an impact as to significantly influence the trajectory Russia took following the collapse. It's not as if the former Soviet Union was ever going to turn into anything but a plutocracy. Just the fact that communism survived there as long as it did speaks to the nature of the society.

    1. In entertainment deals, you often see clauses requiring totally secret arbitration in the event of a dispute. The point is to avoid the parties' respective brands from being publicly dragged through the muck. Too bad Cato didn't have something like that.

      1. Yeah, 'cause the Koch brand was so beloved before.

        1. It's Cato I'm worried about. I think the Kochs are largely unfairly vilified, but the damage is already done. The reputation at stake here is Cato's. Not Crane's, not Koch's.

          1. The reputation at stake here is Cato's

            Very good point.

            1. I imagine Cato will survive, but for this to happen now, of all times, is frustrating. There's an outside possibility that the economic situation could give libertarianism a slightly stronger voice. Cato could've helped.

              1. When Obama wins the 2012, are we going to blame it on the Koch/Crane dispute?

                1. Whoever wins, the international libertarian conspiracy is to blame.

                2. That's becoming increasingly unlikely.

              2. But Pro, the people who now will use the involvement of the Kochs as an excuse to write off CATO were not going to listen to CATO anyway. I don't think it matters.

                1. I don't think the Koch association matters, one way or the other, as they already were involved (and perceived as being more involved than they are). It's the open conflict that hurts.

              3. They have a blog...

                It look stop me the rank and file are doing just fine in the midst of all this.


            2. imagine their reputation if Cato does win. They took on the Koch and survived.

              perhaps that's part of the conspiracy. it's all an elaborate ruse.

              1. Imagine their reputation if Cato does win. They took on the Koch and survived.


                Who is going to love them for it?

                Politico? The Huffington post? NYT?

                The left will never like or respect Cato no matter who wins.

  7. As long as Julian Sanchez follows through on his threat to quit I'm happy.

    Go Kochs!

    1. I read the comments on that page. They're... odd.

  8. Man, even I am getting tired of this. Unless and until Ed, Dave, and Charlie strip down for a session of actual, rather than virtual, mud-wrestling, please, no more posts.

    1. please, no more posts

      Take your own advice.

  9. Via Alan Vanneman: Sherlock Holmes and the Internecine Warfare of Madura.

    1. Yanno, after Nick Gillespie's semen laden, tongue hockey slapped hat-tip to Anal Vanneman yesterday, I think I now understand Gillespie's fascination with Jedward. Next up, Vanneman and Gillespie pictured in popcorn bucket attire with hairdos courtesy of Kid n' Play's Christopher Reid.

  10. "What fevered dream is this that bids to tear this company in twain?"

    1. Thursday, apparently.

  11. several other think tanks are facing succession issues.

    This is not a surprise to me. Think Tanks were a fad at a particular time. The people who started them are of an age to quit...and one would expect them to look toward retirement at time when parties seem to switch seats every election cycle.

    Note: I am not saying we are in end times..but we are in interesting times. America's politics are in tremendous flux.

    1. The only reason think tanks became a big deal is because liberals purged conservatives and libertarians out of academia. Libertarian and conservative academics generally had no hope of getting hired much less getting tenure. So with no where else to go, they went to think tanks. That is why liberal think tanks are so much less numerous and influential than the conservative and libertarian counter parts. CATO or Heritage doesn't have to compete with universities for talent.

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