When I first heard about the Koch Brothers buying out the economics department at Florida State, I thought “Big deal.” After all, aren’t most business schools beholden enough to their corporate donors that they’d never hire liberals? The only difference here is that Kochs were being less subtle about it.
Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it’s not happy with the faculty’s choice or if the hires don’t meet “objectives” set by Koch during annual evaluations.
David W. Rasmussen, dean of the College of Social Sciences, defended the deal, initiated by an FSU graduate working for Koch. During the first round of hiring in 2009, Koch rejected nearly 60 percent of the faculty’s suggestions but ultimately agreed on two candidates.
Sixty percent of the economists floating around weren’t sufficiently free market enough to meet Koch’s “objectives?” Did all the rest list Paul Krugman as their role model? Getting a Ph.D. in economics is like a seven year boot camp in free market ideas, but Koch is apparently looking for the second coming of Ayn Rand. [Read the rest of that story if you want to see the role Rand plays in that department already.]
Judging from this article, it appears that the discipline of economics has come down to a division between the merely right, and the so far right you’ve turned the clock back to 1900:
“Bruce Benson, chairman of FSU’s economics department, said that of his staff of 30, six, including himself, would fall into Koch’s free-market camp.
The Kochs find, as I do, that a lot of regulation is actually detrimental and they’re convinced markets work relatively well when left alone,” he said.
Benson said his department had extensive discussion, but no vote, on the Koch agreement when it was signed in 2008.
If they had voted, the socialists would have won. Back to the same article:
He said the Koch grant has improved his department and guaranteed a diversity of opinion that’s beneficial to students.
“Students will ultimately choose,” he said. “If you believe strongly in something, you believe it can win the debate.”
That’s right, let the students vote with their feet. Become an Ayn Rand disciple or switch your major to sociology. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, the diversity of opinion in the economics department at FSU apparently runs the gamut from A to B.
Hopefully everyone will remember this story the next time someone tells you that academia is an exclusively liberal preserve.