Saturday, March 5, 2011


The Kochs have gotten their fair of attention and perhaps more ever since that New Yorker article accused them of being the Voldemort that orchestrates everything for the Republicans. That attention has revealed that David Koch is quite the generous philanthropist and is particularly concerned with cancer, donating $100 million to endow an apparently-innovative cancer center in MIT. Anyway, Koch gave an interesting speech at the opening of said center:
In his speech at the opening ceremony, Mr. Koch warned that government spending cuts could impede cancer research. And he urged donors to fill the gap.

“The National Institutes of Health, and the National Cancer Institute in particular, are facing serious cutbacks in their funding due to the massive deficits the federal government is incurring,” he said in his speech, in a tent outside the seven-story building. “If the cutbacks happen, it will significantly diminish the level of research that can be carried on at the Koch Institute. I earnestly ask you to do all you can to help maintain the superb research at the Koch Institute at its maximum level.”

By all accounts the Kochs are steadfast libertarians, but it’s interesting that David, at least, approves so much of NIH funding, which is—after all—a federal program. It turns out that David even serves the beast, as he’s a member of the advisory board of the National Cancer Institute.

David Koch’s interest is apparently born of personal concerns—he had cancer relatively early in life—and so it’s not a surprise that his interest would take him into teaming up with the federal government to try to beat cancer. It’s not exactly a wholly exceptional thing, for a right-winger to find that one special exception to his/her beliefs that go in a liberal direction: Nancy Reagan, for example, is a huge fan of stem-cell research. And, to be sure, a similar thing can be said for liberals who have a few conservative interests or issues.

Whatever might be said about the importance of having heterogeneous views, they do have to fit together. And it’s difficult how to see government succeeds in making cancer research right if it’s not doing well in other areas; a low-tax, understaffed government is unlikely to be doing much of anything, including cancer research, well. Perhaps Koch believes that private donors will organize and fill the breach, but this seems unlikely.

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