Tag Archives: James Piereson

A Campaign Against the Koch Foundation


There is an old saying in politics that “They don’t scream unless you hurt them.”  When your adversaries scream, it is a good sign that your measures have been effective. Judged by this standard, the Koch Brothers (David and Charles) have been very effective in recent years in advancing their causes of limited government and classical liberalism, much to the discomfort of liberal foes promoting business regulation, higher taxes, and ObamaCare.

The Koch brothers have been on the receiving end of non-stop attacks from liberal journalists and academics ever since Jane Mayer published a hit piece on them last year in The New Yorker purporting to show that their contributions were behind the rise of the “Tea Party” movement.  This wildly exaggerated claim was meant to cast the Koch brothers as great villains, but villains possessed of a satanic combination of power and tactical brilliance.  In a predictable course, Mayer’s fairy tale was circulated by the columnists and editorial writers of the New York Times and from there through a network of second-level columnists and political magazines until at length it came to the attention of the credulous foot soldiers of the liberal-left who have kept the pot boiling in recent months with ever more inventive and exaggerated versions of the original lie.     
The latest controversy surrounding the Kochs arises from an article published last week in the St. Petersburg Times titled, “Billionaire’s Role in Hiring Decisions at Florida State University Raises Questions.”  The author insinuates that the Koch Foundation was trying to “buy off” the Economics Department at Florida State University through a $1.5 million grant (paid over six years) to hire new faculty and to support graduate fellowships under a program in “political economy and free enterprise.”  Under the grant, a three-person faculty committee was set up to review candidates for the positions, including one member designated by the Foundation.  The paper suggested that by designating a member of the review committee the Foundation was undermining academic freedom by interfering in the faculty’s right to appoint colleagues on the basis of professional competence.   

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A Small Stimulus for Colleges

In the area of higher education especially, but in most other areas too, the Stimulus bill looks more like an emergency measure designed to maintain current programs than a strategic package aimed to stimulate growth. Among others, college and university presidents are likely to be among those sorely disappointed.
Last November, shortly after the election, a group of college presidents took out a full page advertisement in the New York Times to make the case that the proposed stimulus package to be considered by the new administration should include some $50 billion for the construction of new buildings on college campuses across the country. The academic leaders argued that such expenditures were an investment in the future of the country and would, in addition, create new jobs in the short run. They estimated that this allocation would represent but 5 per cent or thereabouts of the total stimulus package, which by their reckoning would add up to something like $1 trillion. Like governors, mayors, and representatives of other interest groups, they were eager to get in line for a piece of this once-in- a-lifetime jackpot of federal largesse.

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James Piereson On Literary Fraud

Read James Piereson on the alarming spate of fabricated autobiographies as of late at Arma Virumque: Here’s a sampling

“There’s money in poverty,” a well known professor said to me many years ago after he had won a large research grant to study the living conditions of the less fortunate. We both laughed, he at the irony and I at the absurdity of a policy whereby the well off prosper under the guise of helping the poor.

At least the professor did not pretend that he was poor, which is more than can be said for several prominent novelists who have been caught fabricating their life stories in published autobiographies. What is striking about this trend among novelists is that in almost every case well-off and well-educated writers sought literary fame (and money) by passing themselves off as victims of one kind or another. The made-up characters are poor, of course, or addicts, prostitutes or victims of sexual abuse – victims of society, assuredly, or, in some cases, of the Nazis…

It’s these modish fables that appeal to publishers. Take a look.

The Betrayal Of The Academy

[This is an excerpt from a paper delivered by James Piereson at a Manhattan Institute conference on October 3, 2007, marking the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. He is Executive Director of the Center for the American University and President of the William E. Simon Foundation. The New Criterion will publish the full text of papers from the conference, some of them in slightly different forms. The proceedings of the meeting will soon be available on C-SPAN. Speakers included Robert George, Roger Kimball, Peter Berkowitz, James Miller, Heather Mac Donald and Mark Steyn.]

[Allan] Bloom claimed that the West faces an intellectual crisis because no one any longer can make a principled defense of its institutions or way of life. This is most evident in the university, which has reformed itself according to the ideas of openness, tolerance, relativism, and diversity – all of which claim that no political principles, institutions, or way of life can be affirmed as being superior to any others. This is the near-universal view among students and faculty at our leading institutions of higher learning. The tragedy here, according to Bloom, is that relativism has extinguished the real motive behind all education, which is “the search for the good life.” If all ideas and ideals are equal, there is little point in searching for the best ones.

This open-mindedness, as Bloom said, is thought to be a moral virtue that counters a dangerous vice called “absolutism,” which involves the affirmation of any set of principles or morals as objectively true. The operative assumption here is that if someone or some group affirms something to be true they will be led to oppress those who disagree. Tolerance and openness are thus the virtues required for democracy and freedom. Hitler, as it is believed, was an absolutist; his crimes followed from his absolute conviction that he was right and Germans a superior people. Democracy thus seems to rely on the belief that no one has access to the truth.

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