I've got a new piece up at The Daily Beast that talks about Daniel Schulman's brilliant new biography of Charles and David Koch, Sons of Wichita, the brothers' major role in fomenting the contemporary libertarian moment, and how those of us who believe in shrinking the size, scope, and spending of the government might shift the course of politics in 2014, 2016, and beyond. Snippets:
What's far more interesting—and important to contemporary America—is the way in which Schulman documents the absolute seriousness with which Charles and David have always taken specifically libertarian ideas and their signal role in helping to create a "freedom movement" to counter what they have long seen as a more effective mix of educational, activist, and intellectual groups on the broadly defined left. By treating the Koch brothers' activities in critical but fair terms,Sons of Wichita points to what I like to think of as Libertarianism 3.0, a political and cultural development that, if successful, will not only frustrate the left but fundamentally alter the right by creating fusion between forces of social tolerance and fiscal responsibility….
The standard GOP response to unapologetic libertarianism is fear and dismissal: It's too whacked out, too radical, too scary. Yet the only branch of the Republican Party that isn't dead and withered is precisely the libertarian one. Retired Rep. Ron Paul (who ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1988) packed college campuses with young kids and retirees with a vision of limited government, fed audits, and restrained foreign policy. If he fired up an enthusiasm that was never fully reflected in his vote totals, he also inspired a new generation of candidates and activists who want to be part of a major party. Whose heart flutters at the sight of John Boehner or Eric Cantor? While not necessarily doctrinaire libertarians, characters such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) are not only pushing for defense spending and the NSA to be put on the chopping block, they are increasingly pushing for marriage and drug issues to be settled at the state level. Paul is consistently at the top of polls for 2016 presidential contenders.
David Koch is a trustee of Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason.com and Reason.tv, of which I'm editor in chief. Back in 1993, I received a fellowship for around $3,500 from the Institute for Humane Studies, of which Charles Koch is a major benefactor; the grant helped me complete my Ph.D. in American literature at the State University of New York at Buffalo.