Britain's First Climate Denier Was Bag Carrier for Oil Baron Charles Koch

DeSmog UK’s epic history series continues with a peek into the intimate friendship between free-market libertarian John Blundell and the Koch brothers.

Without… Charles and David Koch… without their far-sighted commitment, we would not be here today and we would not be witnessing a world-wide move toward freedom and free markets,” John Blundell once wrote.

The free-market libertarian had just been recruited as the new director of the free-market Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). Handing in his notice at the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) – a hardline neoliberal think tank funded by oil billionaire Charles Koch – Blundell booked a flight to England.

But this transatlantic move did not cause the Koch–Blundell relationship to fade. In fact, the friendship extended as far as Blundell continuing to do Koch’s bidding from the IEA’s London offices.

Retirement Funding

Soon after arriving at Lord North Street, Blundell received a call from his former patron in the United States. Margit von Mises, the widow of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (pictured), was now a 102-year-old facing destitution.

Margit had hocked all she owned and was facing spending the rest of her years in a charity home,” Blundell told the author. “Margit’s only family was in London and I had just reached London. The family were themselves quite old and into retirement and could not reasonably fund Margit.”

Charles and his right hand man Rich Fink asked me to run a quick operation. They put up a sum and asked me to get it matched. They knew I knew all the folks who could and would do so. It was anything up to $120,000. Anyways, I bashed out a bunch of letters and we got the match. I forget where we ran the pot from but probably had to be a 501(c)(3) in the USA as all the donors were American.”

Private Philanthropy

Blundell succeeded in raising the extra money and opened an account, paying Mrs Mises enough each month to cover her living expenses. After she died, there was still some money remaining.

When I raised the money I said that as she might well pass on during this first year, would people nominate to whom the balance should go if that indeed did happen. I recall IHS being the main one.” He added, “I did that as director general of the IEA but cannot recall if the dosh passed through us or somewhere else.”

Blundell recalled fondly: “Charles was very like Thatcher in that he did and still does strongly believe in quiet private acts of philanthropy.”

This remarkable act of selflessness demonstrates how close Blundell remained with the oil billionaire when he arrived in London and established the first climate sceptic outfit in Britain.

Next time, our epic history series investigates how Blundell challenged the young Roger Bate to set up an environment unit within the IEA.

@brendanmontague

Photo: Peoplecheck via Creative Commons

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