It looks like the Koch ideological machine is very serious about using Koch money to control the intellectual life of college campuses wherever possible. “Lakey,” a graduate student at Florida State University just wrote an expose for the Tallahassee Democrat. FSU is one of the universities where this attempt at control is being waged, and she has exposed the entire scam. And it is ugly.
The Foundation provides large financial gifts to cash strapped economics departments. This is normal but unlike the usual case they have control over who is hired. Funding lasts long enough for the professor to get tenure. Taxpayers must then pay the salary because Charles Koch Foundation funding then ends “and the 2013 agreement mandates that FSU agree ‘to assume full responsibility for the continued maintenance and funding of the Professorship Positions’.” As Lakey points out, “Charles Koch Foundation puts their people in and then the taxpayers are required to keep them until their tenure expires. Five years of CKF funding to guarantee a lifetime taxpayer position.”
And that of course frees up CKF money to do it again elsewhere – all the while Koch is funding politicians seeking to cut funding for higher education, increasing universities’ vulnerability to this take over tactic.
Modern ‘libertarianism’ at your service.
One of the ironies is that Koch money both revived and then largely destroyed the intellectual vitality of Austrian economics, a school of thought that did more than any other to demonstrate the impossibility of central economic planning and the importance of markets to a free society. Initially he and other wealthy donors helped provide support for Austrian scholars at a time when university economics departments were primarily interested in what government planning could do. When I was a undergraduate student at the University of Kansas rather than addressing Ludwig von Mises’ criticisms of central planning, I was simply informed he was an “old man.” End of issue. No Austrian need apply there! The free market “Chicago School” was intolerant of anyone who did not follow their own deeply flawed methodological dogmas. In such an environment Koch’s efforts were initially all to the good in my opinion.
But, and it is a fatal but, he and his allies treated economics not as a science but as a weapon in the “war of ideas.” Research into new areas was drastically subordinated to intellectual predictability and orthodoxy. Superficially conferences seemed to bring Austrian School and interested academics together to explore issues from within Austrian viewpoints. But the reality was different. Papers and presenters were always selected beforehand. Control over content was all pervasive, smoothed over by good food and prestigious locations.
One of the many ironies here is that science is as much a spontaneous order as the market. Arguments for intellectual freedom in science are of the same nature as arguments for a freely functioning market order. And yet the advocates of turning everything over to “the market” are seeking to control intellectual life in economics, the key science studying the market.
Whenever anyone wonders how the relatively free wheeling libertarian intellectual environment of the late 60s turned into so much lockstep and usually right wing predictability today, Charles Koch and the intellectual conformity he fostered appear to be major causes. With friends like him one wonders whether freedom needs enemies to be imperiled.