By the late 1980s, Richard Fink had supplanted Cato’s Ed Crane as Charles Koch’s main political lieutenant. Unlike Crane, who was interested in libertarian ideas but regarded it as “creepy when you have to deal with politicians,” Fink was fascinated by the nuts and bolts of power. After studying the Kochs’ political problems for six months, he drew up a practical blueprint, ostensibly inspired by Hayek’s model of production, that impressed Charles by going beyond where his own 1976 paper on the subject had left off. Called “The Structure of Social Change,” it approached the manufacture of political change like any other product. As Fink later described it in a talk, it laid out a three-phase takeover of American politics. The first phase required an “investment” in intellectuals whose ideas would serve as the “raw products.” The second required an investment in think tanks that would turn the ideas into marketable policies. And the third phase required the subsidization of “citizens” groups that would, along with “special interests,” pressure elected officials to implement the policies. It was in essence a libertarian production line, waiting only to be bought, assembled, and switched on.
Fink’s plan was tailor-made for Charles Koch, who deeply admired Hayek and approached both business and politics with the systematic mind-set of an engineer. While some might find it disturbing to regard the democratic process as a factory, Charles soon adopted the strategy as his own. As he told Brian Doherty, the libertarian writer, “To bring about social change requires a strategy that is vertically and horizontally integrated.” It must span, he said, from “idea creation to policy development to education to grassroots organizations to lobbying to political action.”
- Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right