Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Charles Koch Book Review Mystery

The heavily Koch-funded Tyler Cowen is out with early comments on the new Charles Koch book.

Cowen calls the book interesting and provides three quotes from the book to prove it. Given that the book is about Koch management rules for creating value, perhaps more interesting than the book itself is that Cowen chose these two quotes from the management book to show how compelling the book is:
One of the many schools I attended was a Catholic school, to which I was sent at age five for a couple of years.  But I was a skeptic even at that young age.  I rejected the nuns’ claim — which I took literally — that Jesus was behind the altar.  They offered graham crackers and milk as reward for good behavior, but the incentive wasn’t strong enough for me.
…Barbara Walters included David [Koch] on her television special The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2014.
His selection highlights the difference in our lifestyles.  His is interesting; mine is not.  When I am not in the office, I’m either studying praxeology, working out in our basement gym, analyzing the twenty-four components of the golf swing, enjoying one of Liz’s “heart-healthy” meals in our kitchen, or trying to understand what my toddler grandsons are saying when we FaceTime.
In the comments to the post, some are suggesting that a heavy dose of reading between the lines is required when Cowen says his benefactors book is "interesting throughout."

Anonymous September 12, 2015 at 6:03 am
What is the Straussian reading of Tyler’s blog post?

Mark September 12, 2015 at 10:09 am
Very, very good question. The quotes are inane. I believe Tyler knows this.

Thiago Ribeiro September 12, 2015 at 11:02 am
Why don’t you go find better quotes there if you are so smart? I dare you. :)

Epigonymous September 12, 2015 at 12:03 pm
The three excerpts offered in support of the italicized claim that the book is interesting throughout do not in fact do so. Since Tyler is a careful writer he must have offered them as evidence for a different claim, but what could it be . . . ?

Dan September 12, 2015 at 5:15 pm
Yeah, it occurred to me that this might need a Straussian reading, but I can’t figure out what it is. Maybe the concealed point is really basic: the book isn’t actually interesting. Maybe the point is: it’d be cool if libertarian masters of industry were Randian demi-gods, but alas it’s just not the case. Maybe here’s the point: isn’t it interesting that Koch bothered to write a dull, ghost-written tome — to riff on de Tocqueville, democracy convinces even the plotocrats to make themselves look like “down to earth” regular folk.


freethinker September 12, 2015 at 1:04 pm
I read about Koch in wikipedia and I get the impression he contributed generously to the center Tyler is closely associated with. Is that why he finds the book “interesting throughout”? And as a reader put it, he could have found better excerpts

Ricardo September 12, 2015 at 1:25 pm
I think Tyler is just having fun at this point. He deliberately “raises the status” of Charles G. Koch and then sits back and enjoys the fireworks in the comments section.

jorgensen September 12, 2015 at 7:32 pm
I think you’re right. “Interesting” is a word that can cut both ways.

Frank Lumbar September 12, 2015 at 7:22 pm
I have been waiting eagerly to visit the comments since this post hit my feed.

And, I have not been disappointed…

Tyler’s best troll post of the year for sure.

bob September 13, 2015 at 5:41 pm
Among academics. Tyler has probably received more direct and indirect Koch funding than any living person, so perhaps a wee disclaimer would be appropriate. It’s a bit like Dmitry Medvedev reviewing Putin’s autobiography.


  1. Cowen famously admits to not reading books all the way through.

  2. This is interesting. Murray Rothbard once gave a blurb to a book writer to the effect of, "If every man and woman in the country read this book, it would change the course of history."

    More seriously, I suspect the Koch book is worth reading and actually interesting -- but not to Cowen. Market Based Management -- or ever it is called -- makes a lot of sense to me in the context of a large industrial corporation -- which necessarily faces many of the knowledge problems of the market without internal pricing information.