Attn: Koch Brothers: “Cultivate humans, and they’ll cultivate everything else you’re looking for.”

We find the world we’re looking for. Here’s what I see: Look at all them books...

We find the world we’re looking for. Here’s what I see: Look at all them books…

I know precisely two things about the Koch Brothers:

1. They spend a lot of money trying to sway voters toward human liberty.

2. Marxists hate them for doing it.

The second observation would seem to argue for the efficacy of the first – except for, you know, the part about the ever-diminishing human liberty. No, Marxists revile all opposition, particularly well-funded opposition, even if it’s ineffective.

And the money spent by the Koch Brothers and other political patrons is largely wasted.


Adults are rarely swayed by rhetoric, for one thing, and the Koch strategy is all but entirely focused on evangelizing adults. Still worse, the Koch arguments sound suicidal to the folks they’re aimed at. Despite all the crap we love to tell ourselves about emancipation, comfortable slaves do not campaign for manumission. Too much the contrary.

I’m not picking on the Kochs. The entire anti-Marxist messaging apparatus is ass-backwards: The wrong arguments made the wrong way to the wrong audience.

No one was ever scorned or scolded into better behavior, which is why “Chortle, chortle, chortle, you’re wrong, wrong, wrong!” is such a spectacularly useless claim – even though the entire conservative publishing apparatus is convinced it will finally work this time.

Moreover, people change their views for their reasons, not yours. Even when the rhetoric comes across as more than hectoring, it still seems self-serving to the listener. Should he ask, “What’s in it for me?” the response is going to sound to him like more pie in the sky – to be paid for, he surmises, by the food out of his own mouth.

Why the heck doesn’t that work?

Here are three things the Koch Brothers and other anti-Marxist philanthropists can do to get more bang for the messaging buck:

1. Focus on children as well as adults. It’s next-to-impossible to fix a broken adult, but children can bet set on a better lifelong course while they are still unbent.

2. Sell the benefits, not the features. Better-for-everyone sounds great, but better-for-me is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

3. Stop yelling at people. They’re already not listening.

The bad news? That won’t work either, not as academy-annointed rhetoric. Boring people even louder and longer, even with a smile on your face, will persuade no one.

What will?


Poetry writ large, that is, in the form of all narrative art – especially television. But poetry is leadership – that’s what it’s for – and Marxists win and anti-Marxists lose because they are much better at the poetry of despair and surrender than we are at the poetry of hope and eventual triumph.

Andrew Breitbart famously said, “Politics is downstream from culture.” That truism is likely to be most impressive to people who don’t know who employed Virgil and Horace – and why. But the problem the Koch Brothers and so many others are having is easy to understand: Their politics conflict with their target audience’s culture.

The solution to that is simple: Change the culture. It’s what the Marxists did, after all.

Yesterday at church, I talked about the aesthetic philosophy that will make this strategy work: Benedy, the story arc that makes people better over time by showing them people making themselves better over time. Benedy is the poetic leadership that made The West great in the first place, and it is the only art that can lead humanity back to civilization:

I’d love to talk to the Koch Brothers about these ideas – but I’d love to talk to anyone about them. I’ve been hammering on this one idea for years, and the sole response I’ve elicited so far is to have been kicked off Liberty Island: “We’re setting forth on a grand adventure, a perilous journey, and the very last thing we want is a map!”

But people change their views for their reasons, not mine. Even so, it could be that anti-Marxists have endured enough pain by now that they might be willing to question their unquestionable premises. If so, here’s a big-picture strategy that can work for Koch-like philanthropists, where everything they’re doing now does not:

1. Buy the entire three-hour prime-time block of a broadcast TV network for one weeknight a week. One of the big-four networks will do this, for the right price.

2. Fill those three hours with my kind of benedy: People doing better for themselves and for their families over time by learning and mastering better ideas.

Then wait – but busily. People love the kinds of stories I’m talking about. Only artists and academics hate happy endings. Telling benedic stories, as farce or drama, will grow an audience over time, and the gradual improvements in the day-to-day lives of the fans of this slice of prime-time will serve to make that audience bigger over time. As that happens, buy a second night and then a third.

There are lots of ways to monetize television, so this might become a profit center over time, but that’s not the objective. The goal is simply to show people how to rise in the middle class by showing them people just like them rising in the middle class. If you cultivate better people, they’ll cultivate everything else you’re looking for.

How do I know this is so? Because culture is downstream from moral philosophy. Benedy is the art of rational egoism. Build better egoists and you will in consequence build a better world.

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