I received Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World's Most Successful Companies in the mail two weeks ago and though I am a voracious reader who can plow through books at a rapid pace, I have been unable to work my way through the Charles Koch book.
The book reminds me of a date I had once with a gal, who I quickly surmised had spent too much of her days in yoga class doing ohm chants. There was no fully functioning contact with the real world remaining.
No doubt Charles is a very slick businessman, he is a multi-billionaire, but I honestly believe that he is not enough in touch with himself to understand how he has become such a success. Further, in the first 111 pages that I did read, it is clear that despite being worth upwards of $40 billion, the man fears spilling the truth. If you can't take an "in your face" attitude to the world after amassing $40 billion, there is something wrong.
Charles writes about many of his business deals in his book, but he does little in the way of providing insight into his thinking when doing the deals. I have over the years talked to some very wealthy people, a man who once owned the Empire State building, another a very shrewd billionaire who managed a huge import company, I learned much about business from these men as they talked their deals. There are no such insights from Charles. Instead, we get crazed happy talk, as though he fears mere lefty multi-millionaires might not approve of him. He tells us, for example, that his father was an environmentalist (In the 1920s!)
He tells us that impressions, some good and some bad, were made on him not only by the writings of Hayek and Schumpeter, but also Lenin and Marx. And yet, he doesn't have the balls, to address his views of the economist and libertarian philosopher Murray Rothbard, whom he once bankrolled. Yes, he mentions Marx, Lenin, Schumpeter, Keynes, Mises, Popper and many, many others, but the name Rothbard is not mentioned in the book, not once. And it is not as though Rothbard didn't have an influence on the early business decisions of Charles in addition to influence on his economic and libertarian thought.
What we get from Charles in the book is a lot of happy talk about his invention, "market based management," of which, as one friend recently said to me, "The idea that you should listen to your employees is, how should I put it, not exactly a new insight."
MBM seems to be an attempt by Charles to flash his intellectual creds, mostly championing some insights of Hayek. And Charles, indeed, does recognize, and appear to understand, Hayekian insights that knowledge is dispersed broadly throughout a society, but he seems to have no clue of Hayek's respect for tradition and rules.
At other times. the happy talk seems to get completely out of control in the book. One comment strikes me as instructive of the lack of reality based observations Charles exhibits. He writes, at one point, of his operating style, "I don't believe others' success will diminish our own." Yeah right.
Just a few pages later, he tells us how he teamed up with J. Howard Marshall to squeeze Union Oil out of a key early property, way below Union's original asking price.
So, again, I haven't read the entire book and I don't review books I haven't read in their entirety. The best I can do is point you to Tyler Cowen, who seems to have read the entire book.
But if you want insights into how businessmen really operate read Millionaire Dollar Habits and other Robert Ringer books. If I am not mistaken, he warns about the touchy-feely Charles Koch billionaire-types in some of his books.
If you happen to be fortunate like Charles and have inherited a good bundle that you want to grow, read Trump and J. Paul Getty The books they have written are far more insightful and honest books that you can learn much from. Hell, David Rockefeller's Memoirs is a far more insightful book, and he had the decency, though not holding Austrian school views, to mention Austrian economics and his relationships with Hayek and Schumpeter, which is something akin to what it would be like if Charles had the decency to mention Rothbard.