#6. Conservative Mega-Donor Charles Koch Is Against Welfare, Except for His Friends
Charles and David Koch are the most influential libertarians in contemporary politics. David Koch, for example, ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket. His campaign called for the abolishment of Social Security, along with welfare and public schools, just to prove he was legit. Likewise, Charles Koch co-founded the Charles Koch Foundation, which is known today as the Cato Institute -- a think tank noteworthy for calling for either the privatization or the outright end of Social Security.
Together the Koch brothers have put millions of dollars into think tanks and lobbying to attack Social Security. The reasoning is that Social Security is a bankrupt Ponzi scheme that is creating a black hole of debt that will eventually bleed us all dry.
"And us vampires need your blood to live."
In 1973, when Charles Koch invited the legendary libertarian economist Friedrich Hayek to work for him as a senior scholar to the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS), Hayek politely declined, citing health problems. He had previously undergone surgery for his gallbladder in Austria and couldn't afford to get sick outside of his progressive free-health-care-covering home country.
Rather than chalk Hayek's plight up to collateral damage in the fight against welfare, Charles Koch figured that some people's quality of life was worth taxing the public to maintain, so he sent Hayek a reply letter detailing how he could apply for Social Security in the states and sign up for some of those sweet, sweet government benefits.
He wrote a step-by-step guide on how to take candy from a baby on the back of the letter.
The important thing to keep in mind here is that Koch isn't just some armchair libertarian who was forced to admit under his breath that Social Security is sometimes necessary. He's a billionaire. He could have not only paid for Hayek's medical insurance, but bought him a whole new gallbladder made from adamantium. Of course that probably would've meant that Koch would have to make do with one less diamond-encrusted back scratcher.
#5. Isolationist Henry David Thoreau Made His Mother Do His Laundry
Henry David Thoreau is best known as the author of Walden, a 100,000-word memoir about how he lived in a cottage near a pond for a couple of years, which is a fairly hard sell for middle school English students. The book gave Thoreau a reputation as the father of environmentalism, and it contains his various philosophies on respecting nature and living self-sufficiently off the land, making him an icon for survivalists and people on various government watch lists.
Despite criticizing society for disrespecting nature, Thoreau once started a fire in the Concord woods after incompetently maintaining a campfire and burned half of the forest down. Before Walden launched his career as the father of environmentalism, the locals referred to him by another nickname: "woods burner."
Samuel Worcester Rouse
"That was also due in part to me causing a terrible outbreak of gonorrhea."
But OK, this was before his journey of self-discovery, so maybe murdering a significant amount of America's natural wilderness was the event that turned his life around. Except that Thoreau admitted in his journal to feeling no remorse and bragged about the "glorious spectacle." Oh, and he worked in a pencil factory, which of course required wood logging, so there's that.
As for his self-reliance philosophy, Thoreau didn't really earn top marks for that, either.
For starters, the land that he lived on was owned by his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson. While writing about the importance of solitude at Walden Pond, Thoreau would run into town and have people cook dinner for him, and before heading back into the woods, he would dump his laundry at his mother's house.
Benjamin D. Maxham
"Yes, I had a neckbeard at the time. Why do you ask?"
We get that Thoreau's schtick was never about total gun-toting, off-the-grid survivalism, but you'd think the author of Walden would at least have folded his own underwear.
#4. Revolutionary Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau Abandoned His Five Children
The Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau made an impressive number of contributions to modern political thought, but his favorite work, and the one he considered his most important, was the 1762 book Emile, or On Education, a treatise on the education of children.
Opposing the strict, authoritarian education style of his day, Rousseau maintained that children should be free to discover the world on their own, play, and explore, with an ever-approachable father always present to answer their questions about the nature of the world. The book was shunned in its day, but eventually caught on and continues to influence our ideas about education now.
Pictured: "education," pre-book.
Given this type of pro-kid attitude, how great must it have been to be Rousseau's own child? It's hard to say, because when he was finally blessed with spawn, he dumped them in an orphanage just as fast as they arrived, like hot potatoes right out of the oven.
His lover Therese gave birth to at least five kids, and in his autobiography, Rousseau admits that he persuaded her to give up each of their children to an orphanage (or a "foundling hospital," as it was known) pretty much as soon as the bastards entered the world. And remember, this was an 18th century orphanage. We doubt it was staffed by rainbow-farting unicorns.
What was his explanation? His autobiography states, "I trembled at the thought of entrusting them to a family ill brought up, to be still worse educated. The risk of the education of the foundling hospital was much less." In short, Rousseau didn't think he'd be a good enough teacher for his kids, which kind of puts a damper on his education revolution.
Maurice Quentin de La Tour
"Those who teach, can't."
Rousseau's nemesis at the time, the philosopher Voltaire, publicly called him out on his hypocrisy by announcing in an open letter that Rousseau had left all his kids at the door of an orphanage. Rousseau steadfastly denied having done so, insisting that he had taken them inside, which shows that he was kind of an expert at missing the point.
And on the subject of Voltaire ...