Academic freedom watch: corporate donors to decide economic hires at Florida State

Academic freedom is in danger at Florida State. At least is what has been reported here. In short:
"A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University's economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting 'political economy and free enterprise.'"
This is bad in any field, but in economics where the incentives to be pro-business and 'free' markets are already huge it's even worse.

This reminds me of what Veblen said, almost a hundred years ago about what at the time where called schools of commerce, and which would fit our business schools now, and most likely this new program in the political economy of the free enterprise. Veblen said in The Higher Learning in America:
"A college of commerce is designed to serve an emulative purpose only -- individual gain regardless of, or at the cost of, the community at large -- and it is, therefore, peculiarly incompatible with the collective cultural purpose of the university. It belongs in the corporation of learning no more than a department of athletics. Both alike give training that is of no use to the community,except, perhaps, as a sentimental excitement. Neither business proficiency nor proficiency in athletic contests need be decried, of course. They have their value, to the businessmen and to the athletes, respectively, chiefly as a means of livelihood at the cost of the rest of the community, and it is to be presumed that they are worth while to those who go in for that sort of thing. Both alike are related to the legitimate ends of the university as a drain on its resources and an impairment of its scholarly animus. As related to the ostensible purposes of a university, therefore, the support and conduct of such schools at the expense of the universities is to be construed as a breach of trust."
It was true back then and is still true now. But at least one would expect that the university would have the freedom of choosing and evaluating its own faculty according to their own criteria. If corporate criteria is introduced, on top of the questionable character of the program, it is difficult to understand what is to be gained. Worse, in this case, it is a public institution.


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