Dark Money – Libertarian Influence in Academia

In my last post, Dark Money – The Rise of Charitable Foundations, I wrote:

The goal of the Kochs and other libertarian scions who inherited immense wealth and set up charitable foundations has now expanded to include subverting our entire judicial system by teaching judges as well as law students their right-wing brand of free-market economics. 

This post will cover the Libertarian Academia Complex in more detail.

The Libertarian-Academic Complex

Historian Nancy MacLean’s book, Democracy in Chains points to James Buchanan at the what amounts to the “father” of libertarian economics.

James M. Buchanan taught economics for many years at the University of Chicago, a college famous for Milton Friedman’s neo-conservative school of economics.

Buchanan chose to explore a much more extreme right-wing school of thought headed by Frank Knight at Chicago.

This school of economics was closely allied with Friedrich Hayek, an Austrian economist who was a major influence on the Koch brothers and other wealthy libertarian scions.

Later at the University of Virginia, Buchanan launched his activist plan to secretly use wealthy donors’ funding to inject libertarian ideas into U.S. colleges and universities.

Buchanan intended to sabotage college and university departments of economics by secretly instilling their students with libertarian views instead of teaching mainstream economics.

Buchanan discussed with the President of The University of Viginia, Colgate Darden, a scion of the DuPont family, a name for a libertarian center that would disguise their purpose.

The two men came up with the name, The Thomas Jefferson Center for Political Economy and Social Philosophy.

It was through this program that these men aimed to teach a field they called “Public Finance”.

This was their version of what was called at mainstream economics departments during the 1970s “Welfare Economics,” the study of government financing of public projects.

Buchanan tied taxation by governments to “fairness”. He claimed wealthy people were harmed by having to pay more taxes for public pubilic goods and services.

Friedrich Hayek did likewise in his book, The Road to Serfdom. These men asserted that the rich were victims of government unfairness. This was the hook that caught the eye of many wealthy libertarian millionaires. 

For over half a century these millionaires (and now billionaires) have been funding academia with the intention of sneaking in extremely conservative ideologies past the eyes of watchful Deans on campus.

How much money you ask?

In Dark Money, Ken Lagone, co-founder of Home Depot and active ally of the Koch brothers is quoted as saying “if it wasn’t for us fat cats and the endowments we fund, every university in this country would be fucked”

It was through his curriculum for libertarian professors that Buchanan created his own brand of combined economics, politics, and law he called Public Choice. 

It was also through Centers for Public Choice that money flowed from wealthy libertarians into colleges and universities across the United States to further libertarian goals.

According to Dark Money, in the 1980s the wealthy libertarian, John Olin, spent millions of dollars to fund law schools to teach a program he’d deliberately named “Law and Economics” to deceive college Deans from rejecting the libertarian slant of his program.

Olin eventually focused on ivy league schools, assuming there would be a trickle-down impact on other colleges, a strategy which will be discussed in future post about what I call the “Libertarian-Academic Complex”.

The George Mason University project

At George Mason University, both the Dean, Henry Manne, and a professor of law, Gordon Tullock had become enamored of James M, Buchanan’s ideas.

In 1972 these two libertarian professors set up Buchanan’s Center for the Study of Public Choice at George Mason University located near Washington, D.C. (they college where Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains, later found a treasure trove of Buchanan’s writings for her book).

Tullock, a runner up for the Nobel Prize, collaborated with Buchanan, a winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1986, to write The Calculus of Consent: Logic of Constitutional Democracy, the second of a ten-volume series of Tullock’s collected works (a set I created the indexes for).

According to Nancy MacLean, like Buchanan, Henry Manne and Gordon Tullock sought money from wealthy libertarians to create activist programs to oppose “collectivist ideologies,” i.e. anything that poor or middle class people did that took money away from the rich.

Their methodology was to use “social engineering,” (the manipulation of popular ideas of the masses that Steve Bannon claims he is now expert at).

And here we can harken back to my previous post where I discussed NPR writer, Anya Kamenetz’ article about U.S. Secretary of State’s Betsy DeVos and her family’s charitable foundations.

Kamenetz asserts that Betsy and Dick DeVos’ Urban Leadership Initiative Foundation has been the top funder of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies 

Kamenetz writes that the Federalist Society is an organization that “consists of 60,000 lawyers, law students and scholars with a conservative or libertarians worldview “dedicated to reforming the current legal order.”

She notes too that both Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were on short lists for the Supreme Court given to President Trump by the Federalist Society.

In Dark Money, Jane Mayer tells us the The Federalist Society was funded by John Olin’s foundation, the same foundation that funded Dean Henry G. Manne’s and Gordon Tullock’s libertarian endeavors.

According to Dark Money, starting in the 1990’s the Olin Foundation joined with the Koch brothers’ and Scaife family foundations as well as several large corporations to fund free “junkets” to Florida and Montana where educational seminars and lavish entertainments were provided to over 660 judges over the following decades.

An estimated forty percent of federal judges signed up for Olin’s “Law and Economics” seminars offered by Dean Manne and Professor Tullock.

This number includes at least two judges who are now sitting on the Supreme Court.

Make no mistake, Manne and Tullock intended to put as many judges as they could on federal benches who shared their extremist right-wing views.

These libertarian professors have been instrumental in bringing about what may be the end of the Supreme Court we have all counted on to uphold our Constitution and be fair and impartial to every American in its judgments