The Billionaires’ Utopia


The United States is a nation ruled by an oligarchy of plutocrats. It partially owes its current status to the likes of the Koch Brothers and the prevailing ideas of another oil dynasty, the Hunt family.

The patriarch of the Hunt family was Haroldson Lafayette Hunt, better known as H.L. Hunt. He was born on Feb. 17, 1889 in Ramsey, Illinois. He was a gambler who made his fortune by trading his poker winnings for oil rights in the 1930s, where he eventually came to possess the title for a large section of the East Texas Oil Field. By the time of his death at the age of 85 his net worth was estimated at $1 billion.

Aside from his enormous wealth, the general public was equally fascinated by his personal life. Hunt had 15 children by three wives — including two wives at the same time. These blue bloods provided inspiration for the popular nighttime soap opera “Dallas,” a drama about greed, betrayal and lust. But his personal life was not nearly as strange as his economic beliefs.

The late Mike Royko, a Chicago newspaper columnist, recalled one of the tenets of Hunt’s curious philosophy: “One of [Hunt’s] pet political ideas was that a person should cast as many votes as he had dollars. That, of course, would put the selection of presidents and congress in the hands of a few billionaires like Hunt, which he thought was only fair.”

Hunt elaborated on this notion in his “utopian” novel "Alpaca". Published in 1960 by a vanity press named after him, the novel was an “anti-collectivist” manifesto that glorified the elite as the ultimate achievers. Some of the right-wing views in this romantic treatise reflect some of the ideas in another novel that became a Bible for the modern-day Libertarian movement, Ayn Rand’s "Atlas Shrugged".

Hunt was a member of the notorious John Birch Society, a rightwing organization that was formed in 1958 that believes there is an international Communist conspiracy being advanced by the United Nations. When George H.W. Bush was running for the US Senate seat in Texas in the 1960s, he was courted by Hunt. Bush was expecting a possible endorsement and maybe a campaign contribution from the eccentric billionaire. Instead, it was reported that Bush was handed literature about the John Birch Society.

The John Birch Society worked with groups like the Ku Klux Klan to spread the message of the segregationist movement throughout the Midwest and the South. Ezra Taft Benson, for example, was a Bircher and Eisenhower cabinet member who authored a pamphlet that reflected the racist views of the society titled, “Civil Rights: Tool of Communist Deception.”

Hunt was so radical in his beliefs that on several occasions he accused President Dwight D. Eisenhower of being a Communist, a bizarre claim considering that most of Eisenhower’s cabinet was comprised of lawyers, lobbyists and former heads of American industry.

Eisenhower, hardly a progressive, knew that the proposals of Hunt and his ilk would hurt the working class and the economy as a whole. In a letter addressed to his brother, Edgar Newton Eisenhower, dated Nov. 8, 1954, Ike writes:

“…The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything — even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon ‘moderation’ in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H.L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

One of the founders of the society was Fred Koch, the father of Charles and David Koch. The Koch Brothers, known to many activists as “The Kochtopus,” have funneled millions of dollars into political efforts that would eliminate corporates taxes, severely cut social services and deregulate industries, especially the ones they are invested in.

Given the shameful behavior of the society and its racist rhetoric, The Kochs claim they have since distanced themselves from the organization, but new documents that surfaced a couple of years ago tell a different story.

The Progressive reported on July 8, 2014 that “Charles Koch followed his father’s footsteps into the John Birch Society for years in Wichita, Kansas, a hub city for the organization in that decade of tremendous societal unrest as civil rights activists challenged racial segregation.”

“He purchased and held a ‘lifetime membership’ until he resigned in 1968,” according to *The Progressive*. “He also lent his name and his wealth to the operations of the John Birch Society in Wichita, aiding its ‘American Opinion’ bookstore – which was stocked with attacks on the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, and Earl Warren as elements of the communist conspiracy.”

The Koch Brothers decided that instead of approaching issues from a far-right social perspective, they would appeal to a wider audience that would go along with key items on their agenda. With the formation of the Libertarian Party in the 1970s, they seized on an opportunity to transform the party into one that mirrored their own ideals and advanced their interests (a.k.a. fortunes).

Originally the Libertarian Party was not the corporatist cult that it would later become. Investigative journalists Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber described the early Libertarian Party as “an odd mix of anarchists and hippies, nudists, science-fiction fans, and conservative fans of writer Ayn Rand.” This is evidenced in their book *Banana Republicans*.

In order to streamline the anti-government rhetoric of the party into a palatable format, the Kochs, along with former Libertarian Party national chairman Edward H. Crane, first had to “fight off the crazies.”

The three formed groups like the CATO Institute and Americans For Prosperity, as well as bankrolling other groups with similar goals and fashioned a new version of libertarianism, peddling sugary platitudes of “self-reliance” and “unbridled personal freedom,” marketing this reinvigorated brand as one would do with snake oil.

The appealing facets of the agenda set forth by the Kochtopus include civil libertarian issues shared by elements of both the Left and the Right, including abolishing the War on Drugs, restoring personal privacy and limiting military force. However these issues have been hijacked by the Kochs to gloss over their disturbing economic platform.

They call for the complete shredding of the social safety net and what is left of the reforms initiated by The New Deal put in place during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the turmoil unleashed by the Great Depression. This entails getting rid of Social Security, Medicare and the Internal Revenue Service. This has been a part of their plan for well over thirty years.

During David Koch’s 1980 vice-presidential bid, he attacked services that provided assistance to impoverished children:
“We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”

Koch went as far as to advocate something that oil baron John D. Rockefeller, a man who once said that “competition is a sin,” would have supported during the Gilded Age where his fortune was made:

“We demand the return of America’s railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”

Unlike the infighting inside the Hunt clan had over inheriting the old man’s fortune, the Kochs have worked in tandem to protect their status in society and the class that serves the interest of people like the Rockefellers, the Bush family, and the Trumps. With the assistance of the Supreme Court, the Kochs and members of their class are more powerful than ever.

Quoting H.L. Hunt, the following words might as well have been etched onto the patriarch’s gold-plated tombstone: “Money is just a way of keeping score.”

Mike Kuhlenbeck is a journalist, activist and member of National Writers Union UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO from Des Moines, Iowa. Note that this article was updated Feb. 1, 2016.

From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2016

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