Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Democracy in Chains

The book I mentioned in class, in connection with MTSU's new Koch-funded "Poltical Economy Research Institute": Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America, by Nancy MacLean. Professor Daniel Smith, its George Mason University-educated Director, is a very nice man who says the Institute's main mission will be to facilitate constructive interdisciplinary dialogue and debate on our campus. I hope so.

The Koch Foundation Gifts Another Grant In Exchange For … Nothing?

Middle Tennessee State University is the latest recipient of a grant from the foundation, which has a history of using such agreements to advance their political agenda.

In the midst of the Charles Koch Foundation financing a new institute at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), discussions over the controversial funding and its affect on the future of the school have arisen.

The Charles Koch Foundation recently gifted a $3.5 million startup grant to MTSU in order to help launch the new Political Economy Research Institute. The project was first announced by the university’s president, Sidney McPhee, in January 2017. The goal for the institute is to conduct research in order to better understand business and economic principles and how they impact regional, national and international public-policy issues.

In addition to encouraging undergraduate and graduate students to engage with faculty members, the foundation hopes to provide funding for permanent professional staff, research stipends, marketing and promotional resources and other necessary expenses to operate the foundation on an ongoing basis.

Over the last several decades, the Koch Foundation has made donations to approximately 350 colleges and universities, including Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale. Polluterwatch, a database that lists every school that has received funding from the Koch Foundation, also includes the location of the school and the total contributions received.

The reason Polluterwatch tracks Koch donations, and the reason why controversy has arisen at MTSU following the announcement of the grant, is that critics of the Koch Foundation have accused the institution of trying to exert political influence through their donations. In fact, Polluterwatch offers a bevy of articles discussing the stipulations that come with receiving grant money from the institute.

Historically, Charles Koch and his brother, David, tend to find and fund conservative and libertarian organizations. As a result, students, faculty and local union members from MTSU have banded together to launch a campaign against the grant because they believe that the funding may be misleading and dangerous to the university... (continues)
Some quotes from  Democracy in Chains:

“Public interest has been subordinated to private interest, and when there is no clear distinction between them, it opens the door to endless opportunities for corruption.”

“Instead, he was mapping a social contract based on “unremitting coercive bargaining” in which individuals treated one another as instruments toward their own ends, not fellow beings of intrinsic value.”

“Those who subscribe to the libertarian philosophy believe that the only legitimate role of government is to ensure the rule of law, guarantee social order, and provide for the national defense. That is why they have long been fervent opponents of Medicare, Medicaid for the poor, and, most recently, Obamacare. The House budget chairman, Paul Ryan, has explained that such public provision for popular needs not only violates the liberty of the taxpayers whose earnings are transferred to others, but also violates the recipients’ spiritual need to earn their own sustenance.”

“Democracy,” the towering African American historian John Hope Franklin observed in the midst of World War II, “is essentially an act of faith.” When that faith is willfully exterminated, we should not be surprised that we reap the whirlwind. The public choice way of thinking, one sage critic warned at the time James Buchanan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, is not simply “descriptively inaccurate”—indeed, “a terrible caricature” of how the political process works.

[James M. Buchanan] directed hostility toward college students, public employees, recipients of any kind of government assistance, and liberal intellectuals. His intellectual lineage went back to such bitter establishment opponents of Populism as the social Darwinists Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner. The battle between "the oppressed and their oppressors," as one People's Party publication had termed it in 1892, was redefined in his milieu: "the working masses who produce" became businessmen, and "the favored parasites who prey and fatten on the toil of others" became those who gained anything from government without paying proportional income taxes. "The mighty struggle" became one to hamstring the people who refused to stop making claims on government.”

“Koch believed that what the famed economist Joseph Schumpeter called "creative destruction" was so critical to the health of the capitalist system that empathy was an obstacle to acceptance of the world that must be brought into being.”

“The anti-government rhetoric that continues to saturate our political life is rooted in [support for] slavery rather than liberty. The paralyzing suspicion of government so much on display today, that is to say, came originally not from average people but from elite extremists such as [John C.] Calhoun who saw federal power as a menace to their system of racial slavery.”

“Today the big lie of the Koch-sponsored radical right is that society can be split between makers and takers, justifying on the part of the makers a Manichaean struggle to disarm and defeat those who would take from them.”

“The same cannot be said of James Buchanan. His impact is still being felt today. For it was Buchanan who guided Pinochet’s team in how to arrange things so that even when the country finally returned to representative institutions, its capitalist class would be all but permanently entrenched in power.”

“Many liberals then and since have tended to miss this strategic use of privatization to enchain democracy, at worst seeing the proposals as coming simply from dogma that preferred the private sector to the public.”

Buchanan's scholarship, DS...

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