This extraordinary correspondence regarding Social Security began in early June 1973, weeks after Koch was appointed president of the Institute for Humane Studies. Along with his brothers, Koch inherited his father’s privately held oil company in 1967, becoming one of the richest men in America. He used this fortune to help turn the IHS, then based in Menlo Park, California, into one of the world’s foremost libertarian think tanks. Soon after taking over as president, Koch invited Hayek to serve as the institute’s “distinguished senior scholar” in preparation for its first conference on Austrian economics, to be held in June 1974.
Hayek initially declined Koch’s offer. In a letter to IHS secretary Kenneth Templeton Jr., dated June 16, 1973, Hayek explains that he underwent gall bladder surgery in Austria earlier that year, which only heightened his fear of “the problems (and costs) of falling ill away from home.” (Thanks to waves of progressive reforms, postwar Austria had near universal healthcare and robust social insurance plans that Hayek would have been eligible for.)
The private correspondence between two of the most important figures shaping the Republican Party’s economic policies—billionaire libertarian Charles Koch and Nobel Prize–winning economist Friedrich Hayek, godfather of today’s free-market movement—were obtained by Yasha Levine from the Hayek archives at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. This is the first time the content of these letters has been reported on.
The documents offer a rare glimpse into how these two major free-market apostles privately felt about government assistance programs—revealing a shocking degree of cynicism and an unimaginable betrayal of the ideas they sold to the American public and the rest of the world.