Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Political Diversity in Economics in 1960: Stigler, Coase, Goldwater, Buchanan, and the Ford Foundation
Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution has a post, “The Ford Foundation and the Virginia School of Political Economy,” August 25, 2014. It’s about a recent paper by Levy and Peart about how in 1960 Buchanan, Coase, and Nutter at Virginia applied for a big grant from the Ford Foundation to study public choice and were turned down flat for not being diverse ideologically. Of course, that’s really code for “not liberal”, which is fine. How did they ever expect the liberal Ford Foundation was going to fund them? They had a choice, really: do conventional stuff and get conventional funding, or do unconventional stuff and maybe win some Nobel prizes.
This reminds me of a story George Stigler told me around 1989. It was something like this:
Economist: "George, the problem with Chicago is it's so monolithic in its political ideology."
Stigler: "What do you mean?"
Economist: "Well, for example--- didn't a lot of members of your department vote for Goldwater in 1964?"
Stigler: "Yes, about half, I'd estimate."
Stigler: "And how about in your department?"
Economist: "Oh, nobody, of course."
To someone sitting in Boston University, MIT and Harvard look pretty far apart-- a mile from BU to MIT, and then quadruple that to Harvard. But Chicago and Denver and Tokyo all look about the same-- "a long way off". This shows up looking at the Far Left, too. Anarchists, Trotskyites, and Stalinists all look alike from a distance.