By Kathryn Augustin, LPM founding member
Editors Note: David Hamilton Koch died on August 23rd. He was our 1980 nominee for Vice President as well as a board member of the Reason Foundation and the CATO institute. Here is a link to an article about him in Reason. Kay Augustin is a founding member of the Libertarian Party of Michigan. She hosted the first Libertarian Party of Michigan gathering in June of 1972 in Taylor Michigan. Here is a link to an article about that night in the LPM historical archives. When I learned that Kathryn (Kay) Augustin had once dined with Koch I encouraged her to write about it.
It was shortly after the Libertarian Party was formed that my husband at the time received an invitation from David Koch to attend a conference at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. Koch not only paid our attendance fees but also our hotel bill and invited the two of us to lunch with him. He was energized and totally committed to advocating individual freedom.
At the time, I was teaching at the inner city campus of Detroit Business Institute and had been a Detroit substitute teacher. The topic wandered to one of his newest projects working to establish schools in poorer areas where students would receive an education with emphasis on self-responsibility and basic skills. My memory is vivid on this topic because I had encountered so many high school graduates and students who could not read at all let alone write or perform basic mathematical calculations. The most belligerent students claimed that their failure was due to a system that did not “teach them”. At the same time, they refused to do any homework, pay attention in class or exert any effort. Education has become a passive process.
Unlike the Libertarian Party, which at that time was attempting to expand by appealing to various single issue groups, for example, gays and motorcyclists who disliked helmet laws, David Koch was focused on improving all aspects of American life. He challenged government control over our lives, period.
More important was Koch’s attitude toward his fellow human beings, even those light years behind him in thought. He was an active listener who enjoyed talking with others. Unlike many liberal elitists, he did not look down on people not in his clique.
During elections candidates are asked for solutions. However, Libertarians believe that solutions are nurtured through experimentation and can differ depending upon the circumstances. Freedom generates what is needed for the unknowable future. Conveying this is a major marketing challenge in this age of quick quips. Major party power seekers propose simple-slogan solutions that are static and imposed equally upon everyone, even those who are harmed. Ill effects are dismissed by claiming that their intentions are noble.
I applauded Koch’s run on the LP ticket but as a private citizen, he could act freely. Koch Industries’ banishing of criminal records from their employment applications is an elegant solution to the problem of unemployment among released prisoners, allowing them an opportunity to build a new life. No force was used; only their companies bore possible ill effects. No money was required.