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A book on the the Koch brothers by a senior editor of Mother Jones is “mandatory reading,” according to libertarian Nick Gillespie, for those “who care about politics” and the country’s cultural direction. By Gillespie’s telling, the book by Daniel Schulman is a fair treatment of the brothers and their history within the libertarian movement, which has championed smaller, less intrusive government and civil liberties (which is really saying the same thing). 

Gillespie’s review of the Schulman book is structured around a three-part history of Libertarianism, with Part III yet to unfold. Will Libertarians continue to alter the direction of the Republican Party? Or, as Ralph Nader has suggested, will they engage to a greater extent in “issue politics” with others outside the orbit of the major parties, forming coalitions that span right and left to achieve success. 

Gillespie: “Imagine, if you will, a country in which government at every level spends less money and does fewer things (but does them more effectively), doles out fewer perks to special interests (from Wall Street banks to sports teams to homeowners), regulates fewer things across the board, engages in fewer wars and less domestic spying, and embraces things such as gay marriage, drug legalization, and immigration. …Schulman reminds readers that while the Koch brothers remain staunch opponents of Obamacare and government spending, ‘they are at odds with the conservative mainstream’ and ‘were no fans of the Iraq war.’ As a young man, Charles was booted from the John Birch Society (which his father had helped to found) after publishing an anti-Vietnam War newspaper ad, and David told Politico of his support for gay marriage from the floor of the 2012 Republican National Convention. In the past year, the Charles Koch Institute cosponsored events with Buzzfeed about immigration reform (which angered many on the right) and with Mediaite about criminal justice reform.”

One reservation: Gillespie (and quite probably the book) exaggerates the Koch’s political contributions by linking them directly to the total contributions of organizations they back. In reality, the Koch’s direct contributions would rank them as no more than “mid-major players” in the world of campaign finance.