Believe in People: Bottom-Up Solutions for a Top-Down World – Charles Koch

Reading this was an exercise in every sense of the word. When Charles Koch first announced that he was ‘sorry’ for years of partisanship, then that he was going to release this book with such an uplifting title, I smelled a rat in the form of a future presidential run. That was silly of me to believe, as Koch is 85 currently, and would be 89 upon election, an age beyond the ridiculousness of American politics. But my curiosity was peaked, and I was curious to see what intersection there was between this book and Charles Koch’s apologia tour.

I have read loads of books by people I disagree with. People look at me like I crazy when I tell them this. It doesn’t lead you to be brainwashed. Opposing political views are not crystal meth, where when hit takes you down a hopeless path. That isn’t how any of this works. I have read books by Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter, and all it led me to do was laugh dismissively at their ideas (or realize how much of a loon she is, in Coulter’s case). A copy of MIlo Yiannopoulis’ Dangerous, complete with the editors remarks, fell off of the same truck, and that got a similar reaction. I actually wish everyone would read books they disagree with. I think the world would be a better place if we did so.

But for anyone disappointed in me for reading this, please note that the copy I read fell off of the back of a truck, and thus no money went from my pocket to Charles Koch’s wallet in the reading of this book. Lots of the books I read fall off of trucks.

There are some rules of engagement for reading books by horrible people. For me it is about a commitment to honesty regarding the idea you encounter, and not just looking for anything as potential ammunition against a target you dislike. If a person brings up a good point, you should acknowledge it. If they say something, you shouldn’t immediately assume that they are lying. Because that is something that requires a burden of proof.

And with that in mind I will begin with the few positives. Koch purports himself to be a genuine and caring person. He seems to have a vision about making America a better country, and that better America consists of people of all colors creeds etc. I am willing to take his word on that.

I could go on about the few points I did agree with. I live in a country where Uber doesn’t exist and cabs are prohibitively expensive, so yea, I have seen the folly of regulation and protectionism. But these ideas are 50 years old.

I also agree that we should work together with anyone that will help bring our goals to fruition. I have no problem with that. If me and a human foreskin like Ted Cruz agree on something, I have no problem saying so. Does Koch thing this shit is revolutionary?

That’s it for my being nice.

For every point Koch brings up, his solution doesn’t work. He also barely proves any of his points, excepting to say that ‘if everyone were like me, things would be better.’ No shit. Idem if everyone were like me.

According to this book, the bid villain in the American world is legislation, which ties the hands of good hard working people from doing the right thing, which of course they would do if only there wasn’t so much bureaucratic red tape. It is regulations that keep us from helping each other out and improving society. This is of course a pile of shit, although not a complete pile of shit. Koch brings up the failures of Dodd-Frank, but fails to mention Glass Steagall. Funny how that works. Funny also how he doesn’t bring up how his plan for Bottom-up solution would work for climate change, the biggest problem currently facing humanity. I will leave any reader to piece together why that might be.

But the man clearly has an ego. I read the kindle version1of this book and every now and again he would quote himself in bold text, enlarged text across the page. It is something I normally see in magazines, and there is serves the purpose of giving anyone just browsing but not reading a little teaser. Here, it just makes you look megalomaniacal.

Quoting yourself and putting your own words prominently in your own book is an act of narcissism.


One of the worst things I can say about this book is how boring it was. In that it was ghost-written, Koch himself is innocent here. However, he isn’t innocent of just how old the god damned content was. Reading this I couldn’t help but wonder how this man didn’t realize that it was no longer 1995. The book really did feel like “Neo-Liberalisms greatest hits vol. 1”. To which I mostly wanted to say ‘you had nearly 60 years of all this, wasn’t that enough?’ The US has, over the past few years, gone on a massive deregulation spree, but we aren’t seeing the problems Koch nominated go away. If deregulation is key, this book wouldn’t exist.

But alas, this book is little more than the desperate attempt of a man given everything trying to get a little more.

The absolute cynic in me was in no way impressed by Koch’s highlighting the stories of people who followed the ways of his philosophy. That was when this shitty book felt most like a presidential run. All or most of the people in these sections were minorities of sorts, and again that massive cynic in me interpreted this as Koch saying ‘see? Some of my best freinds are fems blacks and gays’. Even less impressive was his origin story, painted here as humble beginnings. Yea, real humble to have a massive company given to you by your father. Once again, a spoiled brat who had everything handed to him tells us working stiffs to just work a little harder. The money and business Charles Koch inherited was partially from business with the Nazis.

And with that sentence I am pretty burned out of writing this screed.

It really is a god damned exercise to read this with an open mind when what it really is actually looks a lot more like the blueprint to the coming billionaire led neo-feudalism. “You dirty poors need to work together” it seems to say “cause I won’t be pulling my fair share.”

This book was little more than a sad old man’s attempt to justify the shity actions of his life, knowing full well the reaper will be at his door soon. Were that there was a hell for you to suffer in, Charles Koch. I will at some point in my future read Dark Money, the expose on the Kochs. Y’know, to bring balance to the force.

1 And just to reiterate – this book fell off of a truck and right into my kindle. I have no idea how, but I didn’t pay for it.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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