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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13906/whos-funding-this/

“Who’s Funding This?!”

September 15, 2010 by

Academics interested in liberty regularly have to deal with accusations of intellectual corruption. Because of my research and popular writing, I’ve been accused of being in the pocket of Wal-Mart, oil companies, and the World Bank, to name those who come immediately to mind. At Rhodes, I administer a speaker series that is funded by a grant from the Koch Foundation, which was recently discussed in The New Yorker by Jane Mayer (Koch Industries responds here). I’ve also been actively involved with other organizations (like the Institute for Humane Studies and the Mercatus Center) that receive funding from the Koch Foundation, and some of my students have participated in Koch Foundation internship and fellowship programs.

I’ll have more to say about this in a future article, but as Arnold Kling points out, a dose of perspective is in order (HT: Robert Lawson). Google and Wikipedia turned up the following annual budget numbers:

Cato Institute: $29,000,000
National Endowment for the Arts: $155,000,000
National Endowment for the Humanities: $167,500,000
National Science Foundation: $6,870,000,000
Environmental Protection Agency: $10,020,000,000
National Institutes of Health: $31,200,000,000

By comparison, lifetime giving by the Koch brothers is about $196,000,000 (update: this Forbes piece puts it at $250 million between 1998 and 2008). This would be a little more than enough to run the NEA or the NEH for a year. In the ocean of funding sources, enthusiasts for liberty are small fish, and governments are whales. Kling is right: when you include government funding sources, statism enjoys a vast resource advantage.

How big is the difference? The always-excellent XKCD offers a brilliant illustration.

Update, 9/17/2010:

Here’s David Bernstein with more on perspective (HT: the web of links that led me to Bernstein’s entry). The Google shows that according to Greenpeace, $150,000 over more than a decade is enough to make the American Enterprise Institute a “Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group.”

For grad students looking for projects on the economics of science and public policy, I think there are a couple of great papers and at least one great book to be written on this. Take a comparative look at funding sources for different sides of policy debates (minimum wage, global warming, etc). Review the methods on a sample of studies from scholarly outfits that take government funding, corporate funding, etc., and try to determine whether any of the work is tainted (this will be very hard, and it goes without saying that “this work does not support my worldview” is not the same as “this work is tainted”). I expect that such a study would find that we worry way too much about intellectual corruption from private money and way too little about intellectual corruption from government money, but I could very well be wrong. Write a follow-up paper on the public rhetoric of science, independence, and funding. If you’re stuck and wondering what to do, I think this could really elevate the discussion.


Roy September 15, 2010 at 10:31 am

Hmmm…. $ 170Bn bailout? Back then we thought that was money… then came the $ 800Bn stimulus, and the $1 Trillion QE… now it sounds like peanuts.. By the time QE 2.0 comes along, anyhting with fewer than 10 zeroes will be regarded as pocket change.

G September 15, 2010 at 11:02 am

I think there are some digits missing from that NSF number considering I am funded by a 3 year $500,000 NSF grant and no one has ever heard of me.

Art Carden September 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Yep. Fixing it now.

Steve Miller September 15, 2010 at 11:13 am

Yeah, I think the NSF number should be $6.87 billion, not million. I’m trying to think how often I’ve seen an NSF-funded study that *didn’t* call for more government power, spending, or both.

Abhinandan Mallick September 15, 2010 at 11:27 am

It’s funny how government funding automatically makes one “neutral” and without an agenda in most people’s eyes.

Franklin September 15, 2010 at 12:11 pm

From the New Yorker article:
“The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. ”

I guess Mayer really understands what the hell she’s talking about.

Horst Muhlmann September 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Oh it’s far worse than that.

Someone from the Koch Foundation was overheard saying, “Freedom’s not so bad.”

When will the horror end!?!

Tom November 14, 2011 at 2:18 am

They spent $55 million on climate change denial.

RTB September 15, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Wow, quite the hit piece. Par for the course.

Rob Mandel September 15, 2010 at 12:53 pm

On a related note, compared to the Packard Foundation, those groups are all pikers. Maybe it’s a sore spot for me, but the PF is funding the Marine Life Protection Act which is working on closing large areas of the Pacific coastline to fishing. Not just commercial, but sport and recreational fishing too. The PF, through the Resources Legacy Foundation, threw $50 million in private money to the state of California to get the process rolling again. The funds into the billions, much of it working with government agencies, groups lobbying government agencies, or groups working on public policy issues.

And, I might add, the task force assigned to set the closures was so full of conflicts of interest and corruption, with such a web of money and influence peddling. But, seems our papers never bothered to be concerned with any of it. Anything that was “green” was off limits.

Us fishermen (and particularly for me as a kayak fisherman, part of a small subgroup of fishermen. we can’t just fish anywhere. many areas targeted were beaches where we actually can launch and fish.) were called an interest group. But what galled me, angered me terribly was that we desired nothing. At the end of the day, if they had done nothing at all, we’d be not one bit better off. We had nothing to gain at all. We sought nothing of any kind from the government, simply to be let alone.

That’s something the statists will never understand, that those of us desiring liberty are not asking for anything. Liberty is never a competing interest, it is only competing against ANY state interest. That is what we libertarians must make clear, as loudly as possible, that our interests make no claim on anyone else.

Alan November 6, 2010 at 10:22 pm

I don’t think you understand: we are making a claim against the statists. We are claiming that we are not their slaves, and that opposes the statists’ ownership claim on us and our labor.

Wayne September 15, 2010 at 1:05 pm

A link to xkcd? You’re my hero, Art Carden.

B.K. Marcus September 15, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Art, today’s podcast episode of the Libertarian Tradition addresses the New Yorker piece:


North September 15, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I’d like to receive grants :-)

Then again, I’d also like to be capable of writing as well as you do Art. I’ve actually printed your articles before trying to explain something to a co-worker

newson September 15, 2010 at 10:05 pm

and a special thank-you to daniel kuehn for the laugh on the kling link.

Dom Faraone September 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm

The fundamental difference is that the Government influence, by its nature a representation of the majority, should reflect the influence of the whole whereas the influence of one individual only reflects the viewpoint of that individual.

Not Ayn September 18, 2010 at 12:12 am

Your work can’t stand the test of the free market you advocate, so you must beg from those who are willing to spend vast sums spreading your ideas? Personally, I’d encourage you to just go Galt. The world isn’t worthy of your wisdom.

Koch Industries September 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm

This story misses or overlooks the facts. Find them here: http://www.kochfacts.com.

Brad Johnson October 4, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Of course, failing to mention that the Cato Institute and the Mercatus Center were founded and/or run by top Koch Industries executives might also be considered deceitful. Their involvement with George Mason University goes far beyond the tens of millions of dollars they’ve given to GMU. With the Koch brothers, the money is only one element of their work in establishing an anti-government ideological network.

What may be a more interesting point is that a single family has the economic power to even compete politically with a democratic government that represents 307 million people.

J. Murray October 4, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Right, because Koch Industries has at it’s disposal $4 trillion every year to buy influence with the masses.

Step away from the tinfoil hat.

Alan November 6, 2010 at 10:26 pm

If the Koch family is so effective that with less than 1/10,000th of the resources of their opponents they can frighten them so badly, then I would say that their opponents must be ideologically bankrupt – and guess what! they are.

El Tonno January 25, 2011 at 5:12 am

Koch brothers fund everything from the Birchers to Cato, steal oil, make Indians cry and give cancer:


Brad Litwin March 30, 2011 at 12:36 pm

This is based on the Tu quoque fallacy.

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