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Freedom Schools: What’s Up with that $5 Million Earmark?

May 12, 2016

Freedom Schools: What’s Up with that $5 Million Earmark?
Why are the so-called “Freedom Schools” at the University of Arizona (Center for the Philosophy Freedom-CPF) and Arizona State University (Center for Political Thought and Leadership-CPTL; Center for the Study of Economic Liberty-CSEL) getting a $5 million earmark in the Arizona State budget? Most folks involved in promoting liberty know that government money means government control. I have been involved with several organizations that promote free markets and nearly all of them are proud of the fact that they neither ask for nor accept any government funding. (I admit that, since all three of these “centers” are located at public universities, they will naturally enjoy some indirect government benefits but I would expect that all three of them should derive their primary funding from non-government sources.)
So, what is happening? It seems that one of the centers, the CPTL at ASU, has decided to solicit government money and was successful in gaining an appropriation that creates a new “school” at ASU called the “School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.” The two centers at ASU would presumably be subsumed within the new school. (Notice how the names of the centers were combined to create the new name.) In academic parlance a “school” is one step above a “center” and is more “officially” associated with the university. One direct benefit of this more official designation is the ability to offer degree programs.
However, I and many of the true believers in liberty are more concerned about promoting the proper philosophy than the ability to grant degrees. This is because of the very extreme leftist bent of faculty and staff on almost all academic institutions in the United States, including the public universities in Arizona. Even though a substantial majority of Arizona citizens identify themselves as conservative, the faculty and staff of our public universities are overwhelmingly liberal. There is a desperate need for conservative and libertarian views on our campuses.
But, if these centers are taken over by government funding (remember that “he who pays the piper calls the tune”) then their benefit will be lost. We can see this happening in the name selected for the new school: It will be the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. The CPTL has always been more conservative than libertarian, as are the principals involved on their board. The other center, the CSEL, is more “pure,” that is, more libertarian or more free market. The key word in their name is “liberty” and that exemplifies their bias. This commitment to liberty is even more desperately needed at public universities than more traditional “conservatism” but the word “liberty” was dropped from the name of the new school. It should be reinserted to emphasize that the new school will truly emphasize the free market viewpoints that are so lacking at ASU.
We fought this same battle several years ago when I was working in fund raising at ASU and I am personally aware of how difficult it is to get that free market emphasis, even in the business college, a place where one would expect to find free market views. In fact, there are very few true believers in free markets among the staff or faculty at the WP Carey School of Business. While I was on the staff I organized a trip to Wichita Kansas to meet with Charles Koch. I was hoping to gain support for Koch’s free market views at ASU. Charles had written a book called Market Based Management and I had hoped to bring these ideas to ASU. But there was insufficient support at that time. Since then, free market views such as those of Charles Koch have gained more popularity and the formation of CSEL is an outgrowth of that.
CSEL was on the right track. The person selected to be the executive director, Scott Beaulier, could not have been a better choice. Scott is a brilliant scholar, is truly committed to free markets, and is more connected to others in the movement than anyone I know. However, Scott’s talents have been recognized by others and he is leaving to be the dean of a business college. The founding director of CSEL, ASU Professor Bill Boyes, has been the primary spokesman for Austrian economics and free markets at ASU for many years but Bill is now a retired professor and I am concerned that he cannot carry the baton alone.
With the formation of CPTL and CSEL Arizona has a wonderful opportunity to advance free market views that are sorely needed at ASU. We should not let this opportunity slip through the crack by letting the nose of government under the tent and dropping the stated emphasis on liberty.

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