CONTRIBUTORS

A trip to Wichita and back

Posted July 29, 2011, at 6:17 p.m.

Last week, I traveled to Wichita, Kan., at the invitation of the higher education arm of the Koch Foundation for an intensive seminar with 40 business and economics professors from across the country. We met with Charles Koch (pronounced “coke”) and top Koch managers and discussed economic freedom and prosperity, intellectual diversity in our institutions, mutually beneficial exchange opportunities and the targeting and demonization of Koch by the vast left-wing conspiracy.

The central theme of the three-day event was “Market-Based Management,” the corporate philosophy and culture of Koch Industries Inc. Market-based management is a melding of Austrian economics, Midwestern values and entrepreneurial and technical excellence. The results have been pretty impressive. Charles Koch has used it and built Koch Industries into one of the world’s largest privately held companies. Koch Industries is a producer of value and wealth and a force for freedom and prosperity.

Austrian economic policy prescriptions favor maximum economic freedom, limited government, the rule of law and respect for property rights. That in itself is enough to explain the left’s hostility toward Koch. When you add in Kochian corporate values of humility, respect and entrepreneurial and engineering excellence, progressive panic is understandable.

After listening to Mr. Koch address and interact with 40 professors and some of his top executives for almost three hours, I was most impressed. I’d much rather be allied with the Kochs than George Soros, Jeffrey Imelt and Donald Sussman. I suspect that puts me in a decided minority within the University of Maine System faculty and administration.

What I saw in Wichita was a large corporate building and presence, but not an overwhelming one. I saw entrepreneurial excellence and determination. I saw creators of value and opportunity. I saw some of the top leadership of a company that is prospering that has a vision for a prosperous America. No wonder the left has concluded they must be attacked.

My trip included connections in Detroit and Atlanta on the way to Wichita, and Memphis and New York on the way back to Maine. Detroit’s economic devastation and loss of population is visually evident from the air. In Memphis, the huge FedEx corporate headquarters with its massive fleet of vehicles speaks to entrepreneurial success. The infrastructure and tremendous wealth of the country is on display from Chesapeake Bay to New York. The Manhattan skyline is no less impressive.

A large group of Marines awaiting transport was sprawled around the Bangor airport as I arrived late Saturday night. Luggage takes a long time to arrive. Rumor has it the Marines are headed to Iraq, and the luggage delay was caused by some Federal Aviation Administration problem. I don’t know and regardless, thank you for your service.

I should have been exhausted, but I was wide awake, happy and intellectually charged all the way down the airline in my 1997 Ford Ranger. I had some caffeinated Koch along the way.

Jon Reisman is chairman of the professional studies division and associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. He can be reached at jreisman@maine.edu.

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