On Aug. 2, Charles Koch welcomed members of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce to the second day of his semi-annual three-day seminar. Koch and his brother, David, lead a network of groups that plan to spend $889 million this year and next to advocate for their free-market philosophy. The theme of the seminar was “Unleashing a Free Society.” Because the Kochs intend to exert such an outsize influence on the elections and, until recently at least, have kept a relatively low profile, Bloomberg is providing a full transcript of the remarks:
Welcome and thank you for being with us and we're with you. We're hopefully all in this together.
Now those of you who were here yesterday know that I talked about the obstacles to a truly free society -- and I'll get into a little detail of what we mean by that later -- but today we're mainly going to focus on what we're doing, and what we need to do to overcome these obstacles. Now while they may seem insurmountable -- in many ways, they may be -- but history demonstrates that when the American people get motivated by an issue of justice that they believe is just, extraordinary things can be accomplished, and that’s the message for all of us.
And this was certainly the case in successful freedom movements in the history of this country. You look at the American Revolution, the anti-slavery movement, the women's suffrage movement, the civil rights movement. All of these struck a moral chord with the American people. They all sought to overcome an injustice. And we too are seeking to right injustices that are holding our country back.
Because what we aim for is a lot of things, but centrally is to remove the shackles preventing all Americans, especially the disadvantaged, from pursuing their dreams. That's what's happening in this country. These policies are crushing dreams.
So our mission, as we say, is to unleash our free society and expand opportunity for everyone. Now to me, and I think to most Americans, that's an inspiring vision. But to advance it we must learn to be much more effective in articulating it, and we must be true to it ourselves, in our own activities, in our own behavior.
So what do I mean by a free society? I mean a society that maximizes peace, civility and well-being for everybody. A society with a culture of integrity, responsibility, tolerance and respect. A society that secures individual and property rights with equal protection for everyone under the law. A society that ensures free speech and free markets to provide the knowledge creation that is absolutely essential for prosperity. A society in which people succeed by helping others improve their lives. That’s what we're talking about - a society of mutual benefit, where everyone focuses on win-win.
Now, just do a thought experiment with me. Just think if we had such a society. It won't be perfect, human beings aren't perfect, there's never been a perfect society.
But if we can just change the trajectory of this country, where it's headed -- one of control, dependency, hopelessness and poverty -- to one that moves toward this free society, the innovation and improvement in the standard of living, the uplifting or the helping the poor uplift themselves will be staggering. I think we can have growth rates in excess of 4 percent.
When I'm talking about growth rates I'm not talking about the GDP, which counts poison gas the same as it counts penicillin. What a monstrous measure this is. If you make more bombs, the GDP goes up. Particularly if you explode 'em. Then you can make more bombs. [Laughter] I'm just kidding.
But if we can do that, a 4 percent growth rate will take the present average income of an American of $42,000 a year, within a little over a decade, that average income, in constant dollars, will be $100,000 a year. This is the power of compounding.
And then a few [inaudible] later it will be hundreds of thousands. Folks, this is amazing. Think about the quality of life. Look back 50 or 100 years. Our growth rate has only been 1.9 percent. Look at the difference in the quality of life. Look at the difference in the quality of the environment, medicine, healthcare, longevity, of transportation, of communication, of agriculture. Everything. We will blow way by that if we can achieve these kind of growth rates.
So, we believe that a majority of Americans can be united behind this vision, that is, this vision of a free society. And what we have to do, is -- let me put it another way. Doing this is essential to reverse our country's decline. If we cannot unite a majority of Americans behind the vision, then we're done for. That must be our number one objective. To do so we have do a much better job of understanding what matters most to people and then to demonstrate that a free society gives them the best opportunity of achieving that.
Now an example of this is what is being done on criminal justice reform. This effort has gotten traction because it strikes the same chord as past successful freedom movements. Justice. Fairness. Morality. And now, miracle of miracles, real reform is within reach. And my hope is that if it can be achieved, that not only will it provide opportunity for hundreds of thousands of families, but it will help ease racial tensions - which is critical for the future of our country.
As a continuation of this, we're looking at other policies and regulations that are trapping people in poverty -- and how to overcome those barriers. Barriers such as a failing educational system and regulations that make it nearly impossible for the poor to start a small business, or in many cases, even work.
Now this all sounds doom and gloom. The good news is that when these issues become popular, the politicians, hard to believe, jump on board. And real reform is possible, so that's got to be our focus, is capturing the imagination of the American people with these issues.
Now we talk here about dollars and raising money, and they are absolutely critical to getting this done. But they alone will not do the job. We know this from these successful movements in our company's history. Because it took a full commitment from the Founding Fathers, from Frederick Douglass, from Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, and the thousands of other leaders of successful movements. To defy the tremendous odds stacked against them, they all had -- not just the Founding Fathers -- to commit their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, often at great personal sacrifice. So that's the challenge before us. So our question for all of us, is will we rise to it?
Now we're off to a great start here. This is the largest group we've had in the 12 years we've been having these seminars. That's a good start. But the next two days are going to be a tremendous test. A test of where we are on this journey to unleashing our free society. And what we've been doing in the past is not sufficient. We're all going to have to raise our efforts to the next level. We're going to have to build, with tens of millions of other Americans, the most effective movement in history for helping people improve their lives and making the world a better place. Now this is a cause I believe we can all fully commit to. And I've made that commitment. I hope you will join me. The future of our country depends on it.