Thursday, March 8, 2012

This is very important

Steve Horwitz writes on Facebook: "I want to state publicly that I have been associated with the Mercatus Center and the Institute for Humane Studies for over 25 years and NEVER in ANY of that time have I ever been asked to tailor my research or a lecture to the interests or preference of any donor, including the Kochs. I have criticized corporate America and argued for drug legalization and same-sex marriage in written research and public lectures funded by those institutions and not ONCE has anyone ever said one word about it. Whatever else is true in the Koch/Cato dispute, it is NOT the case that donors to Mercatus and IHS, such as the Kochs, have ever tried to steer the work I've done for them."

It's very important that he can say something like this. Kate applied for a job at Heritage out of grad school, just because she was throwing applications every which way. She got an interview, and one of the things they asked her was "would you be uncomfortable writing analyses with conservative conclusions?". I actually don't know what her answer was, but that's a serious indictment of that organization and any research organization. We had a lot of government and non-profit clients at The Urban Institute, and it was not uncommon to give them answers to their questions that they didn't want to hear. You have to have the independence to do that. In academia, there's a long-standing tradition of academic freedom that allows for that. In private companies you don't necessarily have that, and as I've note here before, the line between research and advocacy can be blurred - particularly at institutions (like Cato) that attract a certain flavor of researcher. There's a big difference between certain sorts of researchers congregrating at a particular place and the expectation of finding certain results. His examples sound fairly libertarian to me, but it's still good that Steve can say this. I'm not convinced that would be the case at Heritage, and in the last several years I've had my doubts about AEI too.


  1. My point Dan was that I could take "left" libertarian positions that might ruffle the more conservative-libertarian Kochs the wrong way but there was never any issue with it.

  2. for it to count you have to be asked---like your not smart enough to figure out the party line on your own

  3. "She got an interview, and one of the things they asked her was 'would you be uncomfortable writing analyses with conservative conclusions?.'"

    The proper answer to that (it's always hard to come up with proper answers in an interview) would be, "Absolutely not. I would, however, be uncomfortable with being told to write an analysis that came up with conservative conclusions."


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