Cambridge Forum: Christopher Leonard
The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America
October 9, 2019
7:00 PM ET
First Parish Church
1446 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Cambridge Forum welcomes award-winning author and journalist CHRISTOPHER LEONARD for a discussion of his latest book, Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America.
The annual revenue of Koch Industries is bigger than that of Goldman Sachs, Facebook, and U.S. Steel combined. Koch is everywhere: from the fertilizers that make our food, to the chemicals that make our pipes, to the synthetics that make our carpets and diapers, to the Wall Street trading in all these commodities. But few people know much about Koch Industries and that’s because the billionaire Koch brothers want it that way.
For five decades, CEO Charles Koch has kept Koch Industries quietly operating in deepest secrecy, with a view toward very, very long-term profits. He’s a genius businessman: patient with earnings, able to learn from his mistakes, determined that his employees develop a reverence for free-market ruthlessness, and a master disrupter. These strategies have made him and his brother David together richer than Bill Gates.
But there’s another side to this story. If you want to understand how we killed the unions in this country, how we widened the income divide, stalled progress on climate change, and how our corporations bought the influence industry, all you have to do is read this book.
Seven years in the making, Kochland reads like a true-life thriller, with larger-than-life characters driving the battles on every page. The book tells the ambitious tale of how one private company consolidated power over half a century—and how in doing so, it helped transform capitalism into something that feels deeply alienating to many Americans today.
Praise for Kochland
“A Robert Caro-like narrative of business and political power with a brilliant, ruthless, and fascinating monopolist at its center. Leonard devoted eight years to this gem of a book, seeking to understand the mysterious Charles Koch and the Goliath he has taken a half century to construct.” —Ken Auletta, New York Times bestselling author of Googled
“Deeply and authoritatively reported... [Kochland] marshals a huge amount of information and uses it to help solve two enduring mysteries: how the Kochs got so rich, and how they used that fortune to buy off American action on climate change.” —Jane Mayer, The New Yorker
“This is fast-paced business history. An episode about ammonia runoff at an oil refinery keeps you turning pages like a John Grisham thriller.” —NPR.org
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, cross Mass. Ave. and look for the newsstand called Crimson Corner. Turn right and proceed north along Mass. Ave. going toward the Cambridge Common. You will pass the Harvard Coop, Bank of America, and CVS. The First Parish Church is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Church St. Please enter through the front door of the church.
For the past fifty years, Cambridge Forum has provided free public forums for the discussion of the issues and ideas that are shaping our world. From culture to technology, the environment to public policy, Cambridge Forum offers citizens vital information about the challenges facing contemporary society.
Forum programs, which are edited and produced for subsequent broadcast on public radio stations nation-wide, feature the nation's most noted thinkers, creators, social entrepreneurs, and leaders from the worlds of academia, business, government, media and the arts. Programs are held in Harvard Square with book sales provided by Harvard Book Store.
Learn more at cambridgeforum.org.
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