Koch vs. Pickens

by Kevin D. Williamson

It takes some heavy brass to be T. Boone Pickens. While he’s out campaigning for $1 trillion or more in subsidies for his natural-gas and wind-power businesses, he’s complaining that some of his critics, associated with the Koch brothers, are acting out of economic self-interest. As Michele Bachmann might say, that takes a lot of chootzba.

I’ve written extensively about the Pickens Plan, (it makes an appearance in my book, as a textbook case of central planning) and nothing I have encountered in my research suggests that it is anything but low-down rent-seeking in the service of a particularly rapacious and lazy business model. Koch Industries, which owns refineries and pipe companies, among other things, could certainly profit from Pickens’s boonedoggle if the Kochs were interested in doing so.

But, in fact, they have consistently campaigned against market-distorting subsidies of all kinds, including ones that would benefit their businesses. Koch Industries, for example, has a substantial ethanol operation. The Kochs are against ethanol subsidies, actively. Which is to say, they are doing precisely the opposite of what Pickens accuses them of doing, while Pickens himself is doing precisely the thing he accuses them of.

The real shame is that Republicans, some of them calling themselves conservatives, have signed up to have our national pockets picked by Pickens.

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