Saturday, November 6, 2010

Right-wing money for students

If you look, there's no shortage of good comment these days about the rich people's money behind the Mad Hatter's Tea Party movement in the US. George Monbiot identifies billionaires Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries as a major force. 

Along with the Kochs, a portion of these Tea Party types seem to subscribe to some version of what could be called 'classical liberalism' or 'libertarianism'. 
   I was reminded recently of right-wing money's efforts to recruit students to the cause with the lure of money  and internships.
   Our department got a mailing from The Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. The slogan "Advancing Liberty. Advancing Careers" has a certain ring, doesn't it? You can pursue your self-interest, while feeling good about yourself because you are also advancing "liberty", and who can be against "liberty"? Scholarships, fellowships, internships and seminars are available for right-thinking students to plug into the huge right-wing propaganda network in the US. One of the things available is a "Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow Program". Yes, that Charles Koch, the Mad Hatter.
   Here's how the Institute for Humane Studies put their mission:
If our country is to enjoy enduring freedom and prosperity, it is critically important that today’s college students—tomorrow’s opinion leaders—understand the benefits of a free enterprise system and its foundation in the values of individual liberty and responsibility. The Institute for Humane Studies is meeting this challenge by teaching students about the principles and practice of freedom and cultivating a new generation of professors, journalists, policy experts, and filmmakers who have the potential to advance liberty in their careers.
  The mailing we got included inspiring posters like the one above and this gem:

Writers for Liberty | Journalism Internships Flyer

I showed it to a colleague who shuddered. He wondered if it was just coincidental that the style reminded him  somehow of 'socialist realism' and the workers and peasants gloriously march into a bright new future...


    The billionaire Koch brothers, while not busy stoking the fires of the Tea Party revolt have foundations that lavishe money on not only the Institute for Humane Studies, but also George Mason University itself, where the Institute for Humane Studies locates to give itself academic cover and a veneer of respectability. GMU's economics department in particular has cashed in.

    One of the points of The Economics Anti-Textbook was to urge students to think for themselves when they go into an economics course, and to try to give them some pointers on how to do that. Our focus, naturally, was on the mainstream textbooks with their subtle 'free-market' message, but that is only one part of the environment in which students may find themselves. 
    Economics deals with the issues at the very centre of the struggle for wealth and power in our societies, a struggle that dominates most aspects of politics and public policy. For that reason, economics education must be a primary target of those who want to make sure that economists are trained to think in the right way and to pass those views on to the next generation. The Institute for Humane Studies at GMU is only one example of a much broader effort in the US. (It's not just the US; in Canada, the Fraser Institute is also has programs targetting students, as well as their teachers. No doubt those of you in places like the UK or in Australia can find similar examples easily enough.)
   I imagine that most of the young people going to George Mason University (a public university!) and studying economics have no idea in advance of the attempted brainwashing they will be subjected to. Sadly, a copy of The Economics Anti-Textbook is not (yet) in the GMU library...


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