Thursday, November 08, 2007

Daniel Searle

By Richard Vedder

As I write this, the funeral for Daniel Searle is about to take place in Florida. Dan was a wonderful man, a person who contributed a lot to higher education and to me personally. Dan was for many years the CEO of Searle Pharmaceuticals, a company that invented many great products, ranging from The Pill to NutraSweet. A Yale graduate, Dan was nonetheless a loyal supporter of my alma mater, Northwestern University, being a major benefactor and a long time Trustee.

CCAP would not exist if it were not for Dan Searle. My last three books (including the one I am working on now) for the American Enterprise Institute would not have been written if it were not for Dan Searle. He has provided me the resources to explore issues not only in higher education, but in other fields as well (e.g., retail trade, income growth and distribution).

Dan wanted to make society a better place. Increasingly, he wanted to make a difference by directing resources to do the kinds of research that often do not get done in universities. His provision for the Searle Freedom Trust and his support of AEI, for example, are commitments to research designed to promote both better and freer lives, free from oppression and interference by the state. In spite of poor health, Dan was vigorously active in managing his philanthropic activities.

There is a broader point here, one I have made before. Universities are one way to expand the frontiers of knowledge, but they are not the only way. Much university "research" is costly explorations of exceedingly marginal value by faculty members who research what they are interested in, not what would benefit society. Much of this research is done to achieve job security or promotion, not expand our scholarly knowledge. Some of it is ideological political correctness. To be sure, much good research goes on at universities as well, but as in everything else, competition is good, and Dan has helped fund some non-university approaches to the gathering and dissemination of knowledge. Universities have a distinct left-wing, anti-capitalist orientation, and Dan's gifts have helped balance that, by circumventing the academy to fund research that appreciates the benefits and advantages of competitive free market capitalism.

I thank Dan Searle personally for enriching my life these last several years. Thank him also for his good works and generosity, giving back to society more than he took from it.

No comments: