Have A New Koch And A Smile

ASPEN--Somewhere between the LoJack hijack by the Tea Party and the high dudgeon of Donald Trump, Charles Koch and his devotees at Koch Industries decided it was time for their titular titan to engage in what could only be described as a conservative charm offensive.

The idea was re-position the brotherly billionaire magnate from malevolent ogre to truth-seeking grandpa beloved by all.

The amazing thing is people are still falling for it. The word kumbaya comes to mind whenever New Koch appears, including his star turn here this week at Fortune Brainstorm Tech at the Aspen Institute, under the inoffensive banner "What Makes A Large Company Tick?" The interview was hosted by Fortune editor Alan Murray, the magazine's way of saying it's always charming when a billionaire opens his mouth.

In response to Murray, Koch claimed the publication of his book, "Good Profit," in 2015, was the reason for New Koch; then he said it was a particularly good interview with Megyn Kelly, the face of Fox News, that got him off the PR schneid.

"You were being defined by your opponents...." Murray said. "What was wrong with that picture?"

"What was right with it?" New Koch said--estimating that only 10 percent of the etch-a-sketch pieced together by the media was inside the lines.

But New Koch does not come out in light of day to bellyache: he would rather pontificate about "my interest in the philosophy of science." He wants to know "what makes societies more innovative and productive than others" and "how to use that inside an organization."

The organization is Koch Industries, of course, described on the web site as:

"Food. Shelter. Clothing. Transportation. Creating life's basic necessities for people around the world through various businesses in multiple industries."

That description would not have to stretch to far to fit the Catholic Church or even Scientology. Russian oligopolies come to mind. In truth, New Koch arrives to spoon-feed the archaic religion of conservatism to anyone willing to feed at the trough.

"We hire first on values," he said at Brainstorm, with "ten guiding principles" that lay out "who we are as a company. They guide everything we do including who we hire."

The Koch approach, New or Oulde, is famously anti-government and anti-regulation. Fair enough. But it is also eminently fungible. The "philosophy of science"--and what New Koch proudly calls "the republic of science... where all the people working on the problem share knowledge"--
is strangely in abeyance when science criss-crossses with climate change.

New Koch ran this rant up the flag pole: "I believe it's been warming.... There are such things as greenhouse gasses.... I don't think science is settled.... Science is never settled....."

So the man who lives in the "republic of science" says science is never settled--not even the science of gravity, which keeps New Koch from flying off into outer space.

And remember the high-falutin' talk about "values" and "guiding principles" in Koch Industries? The company does indeed try to lower its carbon footprint, but only because "you have pressure from your customers" like Wal-mart.

"So we got into biofuels...." New Koch said. "So we're doing that."

So a company built "on the philosophy of science," on the "republic of science"--a company built on specific "values" and "guiding principles"--is only to happy to chuck it all to one side if Koch Industries can make a buck.

New Coke famously failed and New Koch will be no different. What the world wants today is the real thing.