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Correcting Simkovic on the Scalia Law School

Prof. Simkovic makes several incorrect assertions and insinuations about George Mason's law school

Over at Leiter, Professor Michael Simkovic has a lengthy post about the recent controversy over lapsed funding agreements between the Koch Foundation and George Mason's Economics Department. Here's a link to Econ's side of the story.

My interest here is in Simkovic's assertions and insinuations about the law school, which was not involved in any of the relevant funding agreeements.

Simkovic:

Much of the controversy relates to a libertarian/free-market embedded think tank at George Mason, The Mercatus Center, which provides supplemental compensation and resources to GMU's economics faculty and some law faculty members, as well as opportunities to produce commissioned research on timely policy issues….working at GMU may not have made sense financially for economists or law professors who were unlikely to obtain Mercatus compensation supplements…. Without supplemental compensation from Mercatus, GMU faculty compensation appears to be uncompetitive with comparable institutions. FN For example, base salary from state sources for prominent senior faculty at GMU's law school appears to be relatively low compared to compensation of faculty at similar seniority levels at similarly ranked institutions in similarly high-cost of living areas...

To my knowledge, only two members of the law faculty are affiliated with Mercatus, Todd Zywicki and J.W. Verrett, though I may be missing someone. Mercatus had nothing to do with either of them joining the faculty. In my many years serving on the law school's appointments committee, Mercatus has never come up as a possible source of funding to help lure faculty. Yes, our salaries our relatively low, especially considering that our faculty scholarly influence ranks up there with law schools like University of Texas, whose salary scale dwarfs ours. Unfortunately, there is no libertarian sugar daddy making up the difference.*

Simkovic: "Given the large donations the Kochs have made to George Mason's law school and economics departments over the years… the Kochs may not have needed board seats to exercise influence."

To my knowledge, other than the $10 milion naming gift the Koch Foundation gave to the law school in 2016, the Kochs have never given money directly to the law school, though, along with many other donors, they have provided funds for programming run by the Law and Economics Center, funds that do not go to our instructional budget or to faculty salaries.

Simkovic:

Conservative and libertarian predominance at George Mason's economics department and law school appears to have fostered a distinctive, rough-and-tumble culture…. In correspondences with one GMU law professor about my last post, which critiqued techniques used by conservative activists to build support for regulating universities, a GMU professor compared my admonishments to accusations of child abuse, domestic violence, and neo-Nazism.

I was the faculty member in question. In correspondence initiated by Simkovic, I suggested that he correct an earlier post insinuating that allegations for racism against South Texas lawprof Josh Blackman and Cornell lawprof had merit. He declined, suggesting that such allegations weren't a big deal. I suggested that insinuations of racism in academia can be as damaging to one's reputation as insinuations of other bad behavior.

Simkovic's post does raise an interesting question: how has the Scalia Law School managed to recruit and retain a world-class faculty when we are affiliated with a respectable university of modest financial means, and when the law school has long been underfunded relative to its peers, including for faculty salary?

Remarks from professional colleagues over the years suggest that there is a widespread belief that we have had money pouring in from libertarian and conservative sources. We haven't. It's a combination of Moneyball hiring, and that ideological discrimination in faculty hiring means that we can afford to be uncompetitive. Over the years, many off my liberal former colleagues have been hired away by wealthier schools, and a significant number of offers we made to liberal scholars were turned down in favor of more lucrative offers from similarly-ranked schools. Somehow, similar dynamics have been much less common with our conservative and libertarian faculty.

Simkovic, by contrast, seems to be under the impression that the legal academy is skewed to the right, suggesting that "Ideologically-motivated funding only serves to push the median member of … law faculties further to the right (emphasis supplied)." Uh, what? Maybe from the Venezuelan perspective?

*Disclosure: I wrote a paper for Mercatus on Medicare reform and freedom of contract. I was paid $4,500 for a substantial piece of academic writing, hardly enough, over a 23 year legal career, to affect my decision where to teach (and I don't see why Mercatus wouldn't have been interested in the same paper if I taught elsewhere), and for that matter not nearly enough to get me to write about something that I wouldn't otherwise have an interest in.

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  • Stephen Lathrop||

    I wish I thought I could trust this from Somin. Problem is, the way it's worded, you can't rule out that Mercatus, or Scalia Law School, aren't getting scads of dark money from the Kochs, but cleansed of their name by funneling it though some of their many "philanthropic" shell corporations.

    Also, I wonder if Somin excludes from his reckoning any funding for special events promoting Koch-favored causes which have been held at Mercatus. I don't follow this stuff closely. I have an impression, which may be inaccurate, that there have been quite a few events like that over the years.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Meanwhile, Marxian professors abound, preaching the same bad economic philosophy which which murdered 100M people last century. Do you worry about where *they* get funding?

  • Sarcastr0||

    Marxian professors abound

    Have you ever actually met a Marxist prof?
    I never have.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Have you ever actually met a Marxist prof?

    Yeah, all through undergrad and grad school. They weren't terribly common, but they existed.

    Most of their colleagues tended to reflect the superficial Maoism of the New Left, however, where everything bad that ever happened in history was solely the fault of evil white men. Not really a surprise considering most of them had gone through college in the late 60s.

  • Sarcastr0||

    superficial Maoism of the New Left

    OK, dude.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Whatever, man.

  • Sarcastr0||

    I know the right likes to invoke evil Communist regimes as what Dems really are, but what you're describing isn't Maoist, and it's also reductive to the point of falsity compared to actual, non-strawman professors.

    If you don't see how hard the Boomers have sold out their flowery idealism since the 1960s, you may need to brush up on every election since 1964.

  • DavidTaylor||

    I suspect that they were more common than you realize. Any history prof who looks to material conditions and political economy to understand history is being a good Marxist, whether they use that label or not. Any journalist who attributes the large movement of African-Americans to the North in search of jobs is being a good Marxist -- just as any journalist who tells you to "follow the money" is being a good Marxist. Any art historian who studies how Italian Renaissance masters worked for wealthy patrons is being a good Marxist.

  • Noscitur a sociis||

    I definitely had professors in college who openly identified themselves as Marxists. Not so much in law school, of course.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Would you say Marxism abounded?

  • Noscitur a sociis||

    That's probably not the word I would have used, but I'd say I was surprised at how common it was, and at how comfortable otherwise normal-seeming people (more or less) were about describing themselves that way.

  • mad_kalak||

    I have, nice guy, kinda clueless about economics, but big on privacy rights. We got along, and he even wrote me a recommendation to grad school, despite my refusal to protest at the "Free Mumia" march.

  • Sarcastr0||

    So you know and recall the one Prof you had that was a Marxist. This is the molehill out of which the right has built a ridiculous mountain by which they can lament Kids These Days even harder.

    To date myself, I learned 'Free Mumra' before I learned 'Free Mumia.'

  • mad_kalak||

    You asked if anyone actually had a Marxist professor, so I said yes, because I did. A fully tenured Sociology professor who had us reading Marx and Engles and who lectured quite convincingly about the labor theory of value. I went in a wide-eyed kid. The course description did not really match the content of the lectures. I did learn to appreciate Foucault though.

    Now, when you expand the definition of Marxist to include "cultural Marxism" not just an economic Marxist, there is a whole lot more molehill there.

  • Sarcastr0||

    You are technically correct. If you didn't get my larger point about the silliness and fiction in Scarecrow Repair & Chippering's whattaboutist comment, I'm sorry to have been facile.

    To be clear: I wasn't saying there are no Marxist profs, I was saying actual Marxists are actually quite thin on the ground, unlike conservatives at GMU.

  • mad_kalak||

    I tend to side with Scarecrow, in that the natural outcome of the philosophy of Marxism, which promotes group identity over individual rights (and when it has been actually tried), is that it results in mass murders. But I did take you literally because I was scrolling through comments on a coffee break and not reading thoroughly enough.

    I half expected you to come back and deny that there is not such a thing as Cultural Marxism.

  • Sarcastr0||

    I can't deny it exists because I confess I am not at all sure what it means.
    I've only seen it used in a partisan context

  • David Bernstein||

    Critical Legal Studies, which was all the rage when I was in law school, and from which other "Criticals" like Critical Race Theory, was self-consciously in the "Marxian tradition." Too inside-baseball for me to know how Marxist it really was (and is), but there were sure a lot of people going around thinking they were being more or less Marxist.

  • mad_kalak||

    Bernstein is right. In my opinion, possibly the best summary of Cultural Marxism that is about as balanced as explanation as one could get is from Know Your Meme: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/cultural-Marxism

  • Sarcastr0||

    Cultural Marxism is a conceptual term used to describe the idea that culture is a main driving force for inequality in the Western world. Since its coinage by American sociology professor Trent Schroyer in 1973, the term has grown into a popular conspiracy theory among far right wing political conservatives who assert that the normalization of political correctness in modern-day society is a Marxist plot collectively undertaken by influential liberals in academic, artistic and cultural spheres to undermine Western traditions and Christianity.

  • Sarcastr0||

    I guess I can kind of see how this has to do with critical theory. I never took any classes on it, but from what I've read 'main driving force' might overstate things.

    I also don't quite see how that's Marxist in any sort of way associated with communism. It'd be like saying professors who talk about historical didactics are all Marxist.

  • mad_kalak||

    Think of it this way, it's not a "conspiracy" in that there is no centrally coordinated effort to undermine Western civilization, rather the term Cultural Marxist is a label for the dispersed efforts of post-modernist and critical studies, which have, over time led to the problems we see at colleges today. Many of the social sciences, in their education of their students rather than give them the benefits of a classical liberal education and show what a miracle Western civilization actually is, instead teach in such a way that undermines the very civilization that allows such free thinking to exist in the first place.

    When the Soviet Union fell, the communists who identified with it (and who dislike capitalism and America as founded) didn't just give up and change their minds, they shifted their focus to other movements, and the end result has been leftists having a long march through the institutions of America. The term cultural marxist is a pretty good descriptor for that.

  • Sarcastr0||

    We can talk about the degree and novelty of the problems we see at colleges to day in the next thread on campus protests.

    But I fail to see how this is Marxist.

    Moreover, insisting our education become a hagiography to 'Western Civilization' is a bad idea. Countries that propagandize their past get a nationalist surge, but become brittle to historical revelations. Like how the USSR leadership basically Blue Screen of Death'd for a while after Glasnost lead to acknowledging the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
    Better to confront various positive and negative points of view.

    Your story about the fall of the USSR lead to Marxists having a long march across America is old red-bating claptrap. As is proven by the comments above, where everyone knows like one Marxist prof only.

  • DavidTaylor||

    As a faculty member at several major universities over nearly 40 years now, I'd say that most academic scholars have precisely the kind of materialist leanings that Marx theorized. The fact that they may not self-identify as Marxist is not relevant. Marx offered a complex body of work, from theories of political economy to the wilder prescriptions of the Communist Manifesto -- university faculty are almost never drawn to the social engineering side of Marx, which is what most comments here focus on, but use Marx's theories of political economy extensively.

  • SilverlakeBodhisattva||

    So these would be "sub-conscious cultural Marxists"?

  • Sarcastr0||

    Damn, SlB.
    Boom. Headshot.

  • gormadoc||

    Yup, I did HS debate on an extremely liberal circuit. Back when Occupy Wall Street was a thing our local group had a few Marxist professors who were out supporting them. I assume at least some of the Chinese professors I've met are Marxist, although we didn't talk much Chinese politics and most Chinese don't care for non-Chinese politics.

  • DjDiverDan||

    "Have you ever actually met a Marxist prof?"

    Granted that I've been out of school for several decades, but I have met several, both in undergrad school and in Law School. Long ago, at Michigan State University, Chitra Smith taught Political Science in the James Madison School, and she was vocal about being a dedicated Marxist. There were at least two professors in the Philosophy Department at MSU from whom I took classes who were also proudly Marxist - one who even attempted (unsuccessfully, IMHO) to defend Marx's labor theory of value when I remarked that the labor theory of value lost all validity when humans developed the first stone tools. There was a professor of language at Knox College who admitted that he was a Marxist, though in his department there really was not a lot he could do to influence students. Then in Law School, there was a professor who taught International Law that proclaimed his own Marxist beliefs. Granted, I have no way of knowing just how widespread Marxists are in the current population of academic faculty members, But I wouldn't any money down on a wager that they are outnumbered by professed libertarians.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    I would put money down that Marxist professors and libertarian professors are about equally represented on today's campuses. Which, if true, would be remarkable, given Marxism's extensive reach and lengthy history, compared to libertarianism's pipsqueak reach and shorter history. That suggests, unsurprisingly, that Marxism is on the way down.

    Movement conservatism's anti-communist fulminations strike me as ignorant and comical. Also, as more evidence that movement conservatism doesn't have much politics of its own. Mostly, just an insatiable need to conjure enemies to be against. So once they do the work to get a good enemy set up, movement conservatives aren't likely to let go of it for decades, no matter what happens. That old reliable enemy just hangs around. Probably we'll still be hearing, "But Hillary," in 2030.

  • less lean eel son||

    Economic philosophy does murder now? That doesn't make sense. Do you mean folks starve under communism, or that dictators do murder to impose/maintain a communist government. Does Simon clarify his takes on how he can accretive murders to an economic system, rather than the people in charge? I don't think Marx ever called for murder.

    I don't think Ilya wore this post, either, Stephen.

  • Krayt||

    Communism, like other dictatorships and kleptocracies, makes it difficult for free people to repond to market demands, up to and including mass deaths through starvation. This skips deliberate starvation or other mass killings, of course.

    The latter are a funcion of dictators; the former a feature of a lack of economic freedom.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Yeah, as I recall Marx wasn't just a philosopher - he contemplated a good amount of violence in his books.
    It was more prediction than exhortation, but to say that Marx was some above-it-all academic is facile.

    To shout that he's an evil man who has the blood of all Communist regimes on his hands is just as dumb, though.
    =================
    Krayt, your argument that only free market stand between us an mass deaths ignores a lot of Europe. You can be a lot more socialist than America and poke along just fine. But if you want to maximize economic growth, there is no substitute for markets.

  • JesseAz||

    Socialism totally works, as long as you ignore history. And before you talk about Sweden, pay attention to where their actual economy thrives, off natural resource exploitation. This breaks down when populations grow.

  • Sarcastr0||

    First, I'm talking about Krayt's thesis that lack of economic freedom inevitably leads to mass deaths. Lots of counterexamples to that and not at all what you are talking about.

    But what your are talking about is also interesting.
    Your assertion that socialism doesn't work above some arbitrary scale above Scandinavian countries doesn't address England, France, etc. all of whom are well to our left economically.

    I'm not saying what they do would work in America, but you're going to need to do more work if you're going to make a broad assertion that socialism has a history only of failure.

  • JesseAz||

    In your world enefficient markets don't lead to say.. mass starvation?

  • Sarcastr0||

    In fact, maximally efficient markets lead to at least some starvation, as wealth accumulates upward. See the Great Depression and Victorian England.

    There is a lot of room between maximally optimized and completely inefficient.

  • less lean eel son||

    Economic philosophy does murder now? That doesn't make sense. Do you mean folks starve under communism, or that dictators do murder to impose/maintain a communist government. Does Simon clarify his takes on how he can accretive murders to an economic system, rather than the people in charge? I don't think Marx ever called for murder.

    I don't think Ilya wore this post, either, Stephen.

  • less lean eel son||

    Economic philosophy does murder now? That doesn't make sense. Do you mean folks starve under communism, or that dictators do murder to impose/maintain a communist government. Does Simon clarify his takes on how he can accretive murders to an economic system, rather than the people in charge? I don't think Marx ever called for murder.

    I don't think Ilya wore this post, either, Stephen.

  • DavidTaylor||

    I don't think it was Marxist economic theory that murdered millions of people.

  • David Bernstein||

    Bernstein, not Somin. I can't recall a law school event ever being held with Mercatus. And no, no "shell" money.

  • darkknight9||

    Inaccurate impressions and Lathrop go hand in hand. :)

  • nonzenze||

    This one is pretty bad even by SL standards.

  • Eidde||

    I particularly enjoy seeing how the Kochs fund programs on PBS - presumably so they can target their insidious propaganda at the very people who are woke to the Koch-spiracy. Clearly trying to bamboozle those nice liberals into thinking the Kochs are harmless.

    /sarc

  • Phanatic||

    Bernstein, not Somin. Do they all look the same to you?

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    I wish I thought I could trust this from Somin.

    Good news! This appears to be the work of Prof. Bernstein rather than those of Prof. Somin . . . so distrust at will!

  • Rossami||

    Do you even bother reading things before you post? Somin had nothing to do with this article.

  • JesseAz||

    Should have been obvious since it didn't mention open borders or everyone but him was ignorant.

  • PoxOnBothYourHouses||

    Um -- it's written by David Bernstein.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Bernstein, not Somin. Thanks to Professor Bernstein, and to all my ever-attentive critics, for the correction.

  • apedad||

    Um, the byline shows Prof. Bernstein.

  • TheAmazingEmu||

    I've never really bought the Moneyball argument for GMU's hiring process. Randy Barnett isn't turning down Georgetown for George Mason due to the more targeted ideological hiring. Instead, it seems that what it does is limits the pool of potential applicants to conservative/libertarian candidates, giving them greater power to demand a higher salary or else they'll go to another school. Then again, I don't have any inside information, so I'll fully concede this is just based on what I can see.

  • Larvell Blanks||

    You've basically described Moneyball hiring. GMU is exploiting inefficiencies in the market -- because libertarian/conservative professors aren't in demand at the more "prestigious" schools, GMU doesn't have to pay them as much to get and/or retain them. More liberal professors, by contrast, are more frequently lured away by higher-paying competitors.

  • gormadoc||

    He's trying to say that GMU is limited to hiring non-left wing faculty while non-left wing people can be hired elsewhere, so these faculty should be able to demand higher wages.

    It isn't true, obviously. There are far more potential non-left wing applicants than there are jobs, which are artificially constrained by many other universities' hiring processes which may unintentionally (or intentionally, for a limited pool of schools) select for liberals. The reason GMU isn't hiring as many liberals is because they can command a higher wage elsewhere where they will feel more comfortable.

    He also overlooks the aspects of the job that aren't monetary. Applicants are also swayed by the conditions of the job. It simply isn't comfortable for conservative professors to work at many schools and if they aren't on a tenure track or an equivalent it can also be risky.

  • Larvell Blanks||

    If that's what he's saying, it's absurd. "You're the only school that will hire me" gives the school the leverage, not the applicant.

  • TheAmazingEmu||

    I'm disputing that premise. I think a talented libertarian law professor will get hired elsewhere and I pointed to Professor Barnett as an example. Georgetown had no problem hiring him. The claim is they're exploiting an inefficiency in the market, but it looks to me the inefficiency is actually on Mason's end by choosing only to hire or causing a push towards hiring only conservative or libertarian Professors.

  • Rossami||

    So you're saying, Emu, that you dispute the existence of an anti-conservative hiring bias despite the multiple anecdotes describing that AND despite the fact that the observed price points are consistent with standard microeconomic theory (supply & demand curves) under conditions of such bias.

    If an employer arbitrarily restricts the population from which they recruit (by, for example, excluding all candidates except those with characteristic A), they have reduced the available supply while holding demand constant. That employer will have to pay more. Employer 2, who will hire candidates with either characteristic A OR B, is drawing from a larger population and, on the same level of demand, will be able to pay less.

    Discrimination drives up prices for the discriminatory buyer. Always. The math simply does not work to claim that Georgetown is the discriminator yet pays lower prices.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Despite the multiple anecdotes, even!

  • TheAmazingEmu||

    The plural of anecdote is not statistic. I do dispute the idea that qualified conservative candidates are routinely excluded from being hired at other Law Schools and, if we're comparing anecdotes, I actually pointed to an example with a name. If you want other examples, look at the Professors who write here who do not work for GMU.

  • bernard11||

    other than the $10 milion naming gift the Koch Foundation gave to the law school in 2016, the Kochs have never given money directly to the law school, though, along with many other donors, they have provided funds for programming run by the Law and Economics Center, funds that do not go to our instructional budget or to faculty salaries.

    Any idea what share of that, or how much, came from the foundation? And are you suggesting that that money does not benefit the law school, regardless of the accounting treatment?

    I wrote a paper for Mercatus on Medicare reform and freedom of contract. I was paid $4,500 for a substantial piece of academic writing,

    That's nice. But were you on the law school's time, or your own?

    And, without commenting on the merits of that particular paper, let me note that an awful lot of lousy, heavily ideological, work comes out of Mercatus. Who are the authors who get paid for it?

  • David Bernstein||

    It happens that I was on unpaid leave when I wrote the Mercatus paper (thanks to a sojourn for my wife's job to Peru), but it's entirely normal and accepted in academia to accept honoraria for speaking and writing.

  • bernard11||

    Yes, it is. Though some have more opportunities than others.

    And of course there is always the danger of bias when taking an honorarium from a heavily ideological organization for writing what purports to be a scholarly paper.

    Having read some Mercatus papers I'd say the danger is real.

  • gormadoc||

    Do you really think it would be easier for the Kochs to throw large amounts of money at people who don't believe in what they write than for them to give relatively small amounts of money to people who already agree with them and believe in what they write?

    And of course there is always the danger of bias when taking an honorarium from a heavily ideological organization for writing what purports to be a scholarly paper.

    Is there some organization, ideological or otherwise, that doesn't introduce some danger of bias? My department is heavily funded by the DoD and DoE; I would actually be more suspect of research funded by government than by the Kochs. The government isn't altogether very concerned about the research produced by their funding (or if there is any at all; it can take a while to stop receiving funding) while private actors are.

    Having read some Mercatus papers I'd say the danger is real.

    It must be nice to have the psychic ability to know that people you disagree with are actually paid actors and don't believe what they write. Must make you a charm in real life, like Truman after he realizes he's on a TV set.

  • bernard11||

    Do you really think it would be easier for the Kochs to throw large amounts of money at people who don't believe in what they write than for them to give relatively small amounts of money to people who already agree with them and believe in what they write?

    No. Did I say that? I don't think so.

    Is there some organization, ideological or otherwise, that doesn't introduce some danger of bias?

    Possibly. But even if not, degree is important. If the organization is explicitly dedicated to advancing a particular ideology then the danger is quite strong.

    It must be nice to have the psychic ability to know that people you disagree with are actually paid actors and don't believe what they write.

    Oh, I think they believe what they write. The trouble is that I'm not talking about op-ed pieces or other opinion articles. I'm talking about what purports to be serious academic research, which I am critical of because I have found some of it very poorly done from a methodological standpoint, yet supporting the ideology. So I wonder what that is about.

  • gormadoc||

    No. Did I say that? I don't think so... Who are the authors who get paid for it?... So I wonder what that is about.

    Get off your horse and say what you mean, then. All this vague gesticulating is ridiculous and reeks like smug 9/11 or Benghazi conspiracy theorists.

    If the organization is explicitly dedicated to advancing a particular ideology then the danger is quite strong.

    No, it really isn't. There isn't a foundation funding any significant amount of research that has no goals. Whether these goals are ideological or not doesn't matter. The danger is in money that seeks to buy opinions, like in pharmaceutical trials, or in unaccountable money that isn't followed up on, like the NEA. You admit that this isn't happening at GMU. As it is, these people are getting support for doing what they would be doing anyway.

    I'm talking about what purports to be serious academic research, which I am critical of because I have found some of it very poorly done from a methodological standpoint, yet supporting the ideology.

    I don't really believe this, as I still suspect you have problems differentiating between ideological "enemies" and bad research, but I'll grant it. What does it have to do with the Kochs?

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    gormadoc, you seem to misunderstand why academic independence is a thing people pay attention to in the first place. It's not about whether academics are writing stuff they believe in or not. It's about having a structure to promote and reward dispassionate judgment, and to discourage motivated reasoning. That's why motivated reasoners, no matter how much they believe in what they say, have no proper home in academia.

    Respect for academic writing is founded on the notion that the writer seeks truth, judged by standards of reasoning other scholars understand and endorse. It is further predicated on an expectation that an academic writer will be embarrassed, or worse, if he is found to be ignorant of standards, or ignores them.

    Motivated reasoners of the sort the Kochs apparently have been seeking to install in academia, and supervise as they work, may believe everything they conclude, but the only way they can be embarrassed is by delivering results their fans or sponsors dislike. That is a far cry from the kind of performance that can rightly claim academic respect.

  • TWW||

    Berstein: You don't consider a $10,000,000 naming gift a substantial donation to the law school? Really?

  • gormadoc||

    That's not what he said. He's replying to this statement:

    Given the large donations the Kochs have made to George Mason's law school and economics departments over the years… the Kochs may not have needed board seats to exercise influence.

    with

    ... other than the $10 milion naming gift the Koch Foundation gave to the law school in 2016, the Kochs have never given money directly to the law school...

    The original author was clearly implying by "over the years" that the Kochs have a habit of using money to sway GMU law school decisions. It can't be a habit if it was a one time, relatively recent, donation.

  • TWW||

    That dog won't hunt.

  • gormadoc||

    What dog? That's exactly what Bernstein was saying, as explained down below.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    I suppose it would be too much to ask right-wingers to ditch the unconvincing libertarian drag, but they should quit whining.

  • Eidde||

  • mad_kalak||

    I award you 250 internet points. Sadly, they are like the points on Who's Line is it Anyway though.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Most of this dust-up appears to hinge on the distinction between direct and indirect support.

    (I have long understood that Federalist Society favorites are paid for their presentations, for example. That isn't salary, but it is relatively predictable and substantial financial support of right-wing work by law professors.)

  • David Bernstein||

    No. Simkovic speculates that many professors at the law school are getting salary substantial salary supplements from Mercatus, otherwise how can we be so underpaid. His speculation wrong. My colleagues are simply underpaid (relatively speaking).

    He also suggests that the Kochs may have bought influence by their long-term donations to the law school. Such donations never existed.

    The modest honoraria Fed Soc pays speakers have exactly nothing to do with this.

  • David Bernstein||

    No. Simkovic speculates that many professors at the law school are getting salary substantial salary supplements from Mercatus, otherwise how can we be so underpaid. His speculation wrong. My colleagues are simply underpaid (relatively speaking).

    He also suggests that the Kochs may have bought influence by their long-term donations to the law school. Such donations never existed.

    The modest honoraria Fed Soc pays speakers have exactly nothing to do with this.

  • bernard11||

    David,

    As you surely know, there has been news lately about the Koch influence on economics at GMU. Maybe that didn't happen at the law school. Believe it or not, I believe you.

    But it's not easy. It is very clear that there has been an enormous influence on the university, enough to embarrass the president. And I'm sure that you yourself don't like the fact that there was Koch influence - very clear - on hiring in economics.

    But I think that you should at least recognize that the overall relationship between the Koch Foundation and GMU has not met the best standards of academic independence.

    I've been snarky about Mercatus output, I know, but I invite you to review some of the work and decide for yourself whether it meets the standards of sound scholarship. If you are at all acquainted with sound research methods and statistical analysis I think you will be disappointed.

  • ScottK||

    Off topic, congrats to Bruce Kobayashi of GMU, who has been appointed director of the FTC's Bureau of Economics.

    Also to Alden Abbott, elevated to General Counsel after rejoining the FTC from "the Heritage Foundation's Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies."

    It was a paycheck, I guess.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Does Professor Bernstein have any comment on this, from the Washington Post?:

    "It's now abundantly clear that the administration of Mason, in partnership with the Mercatus Center and private donors, violated principles of academic freedom, academic control and ceded faculty governance to private donors," said Bethany Letiecq, an associate professor of human development and family science at George Mason.

    Letiecq, who is president of George Mason's chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said she was bothered by language that indicated donors had power in faculty hiring and a voice in decisions about whether professors remain at the school.

    "These are all gross violations of academic freedom," she said. "Faculty hiring and faculty retention are not the business of donors, in any way, shape or form."

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Professor Bernstein seems to say I am mistaken in inferring donor influence on the law school at George Mason—a conclusion I reached for two reasons. First, it seems like the entire enterprise at George Mason is heavily under donor influence. Second, although the Mercatus Center is formally associated with the economics department, it seems energetically fixated on legal issues, creating confusion. For instance, all from the Mercatus Center website:

    Mercatus Scholars Encourage Supreme Court to Examine Zoning Regulations

    Why Supreme Court May Rule against Unions and What It Means for State and Local Finances

    Mercatus Scholars' Amicus Curiae Brief on Georgia CON Laws

    Will Congress Fix Supreme Court's Madden Mistake?

    A Supreme Court Call on the Third Party Doctrine

    Supreme Court Ruling Against EPA Power Plant Rule Sidesteps Key Issue

    That isn't the kind of stuff they churn out at most academic economics departments.

  • David Bernstein||

    "First, it seems like the entire enterprise at George Mason is heavily under donor influence." If so, then the Kochs must be raging progressives, because the school overall is just as left-leaning as your average Northeastern public university in a major metro area.

    As for Mercatus, I have so little contact beyond that one paper I wrote that I couldn't possibly comment on its output.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Then there is this, from a 2010 New Yorker article by Jane Mayer:

    Financial records show that the Koch family foundations have contributed more than thirty million dollars to George Mason, much of which has gone to the Mercatus Center, a nonprofit organization. "It's ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington," Rob Stein, the Democratic strategist, said. It is an unusual arrangement. "George Mason is a public university, and receives public funds," Stein noted. "Virginia is hosting an institution that the Kochs practically control."

    The founder of the Mercatus Center is Richard Fink, formerly an economist. Fink heads Koch Industries' lobbying operation in Washington. In addition, he is the president of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the president of the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, a director of the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation, and a director and co-founder, with David Koch, of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

  • David Bernstein||

    There what is? George Mason University's ANNUAL budget is over a *billion* dollars. $30 million over the course of a decade or two tells us what?

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    How much of the budget is professor's salaries?

    Also, that was in 2010. How much has there been from Koch-controlled shell corps since then?

    If you don't know, I suggest you use caution before rushing to defend numbers you can't reasonably minimize—as if minimizing were even relevant. Why should a public university lend its academic imprimatur to a propaganda arm run for the promotion of private interests, while keeping the details secret?

    Have you been to any of those invitation-only fund raisers the Mercatus Center sponsors all over the country? Wouldn't knowing what happens in those give you a better ability to estimate?

  • David Bernstein||

    Mercatus is "at" George Mason. It pays rent. It is an independent think tank. Just FYI.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    And FYI, here is how Mercatus describes itself:

    The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is the world's premier university source for market-oriented ideas—bridging the gap between academic ideas and real-world problems.

    As a university-based research center, the Mercatus Center trains students, conducts research of consequence, and persuasively communicates economic ideas to solve society's most pressing problems and advance knowledge about how markets work to improve people's lives . . . .

    Who runs the Mercatus Center?

    The Mercatus Center is led by a faculty director who is appointed by the provost of George Mason University. Tyler Cowen, the Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University, is the current faculty director of the Mercatus Center.

    Go ahead. Try to have it both ways. Or don't, if you aren't beyond embarrassment. In that case, you might concede Mercatus is less-than-forthrightly inviting readers to conclude it has the university's imprimatur. Wait, I think I'm wrong. It probably is forthright—except about Cowen, whose extensive ties to the Koch organization escape notice.

    What a swamp this is. No wonder the university president is embarrassed to have it come to light.

  • DKWalser||

    This may only be slightly related, if at all. BYU has a nationally ranked accounting program. Yet, its professors are not paid as well as they might be at similarly ranked schools. How is BYU able to attract top talent (assuming such talent is a requirement for a top-ranking) without paying top of the market for the talent? There are two reasons: First, BYU is a church sponsored school and many of the professors like being part of the school's mission. (That's true for those professors who affiliate with the sponsoring church and those who do not.) I suspect that GMU has developed a similar sense of itself that is attractive to like-minded professors.

    Second, BYU allowed (I don't know if it still does this) its accounting faculty to work a three-day week. Each professor's classes were all scheduled for either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday, with a third-day selected by the professor for an 'office day'. The other two days a week the professor was allowed -- encouraged -- to be off campus working on consulting engagements. Many professors earned more consulting than they did in salary from the school. I don't think GMU does this, but it could. BYU basically had to.

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