Monday, December 17, 2007

The Untold Story: Republicans Subsidizing Democrats

By Richard Vedder

Several times a year, I find myself hobnobbing with wealthy philanthropists, almost all of them conservative Republicans or even libertarians (some are closet or not-so-closet supporters of Ron Paul). Almost all of them give some money to their favorite university.

Why? Fred Fransen is leading a group financed by some very wealthy Americans that is exposing the numerous violations of donor intent on the part of the universities, the focus of a huge lawsuit between the Robertson family and Princeton University. This is a good, much needed effort.

But that aside, the fact remains most faculty are very liberal, and when rich people drop money out of airplanes (Gulfstream business jets, typically) over campuses, some of the money supports people and principles they despise. Every time you give a dollar to Harvard or Duke or Northwestern or Stanford, you are giving at least a fraction of a penny of that to Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, or even worse, the populist demagogue John Edwards. There is nothing wrong with giving money to these persons, but it certainly is not the intent of conservative donors who give undoubtedly the majority of university private gifts for this to happen.

This all was brought to mind reading THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION this morning. Donations to Democrats by university employees are running three times donations to Republicans. To be sure, donations from ANYONE to Dems are relatively high this year, given GOP abandonment of basic small government principles that have served as the glue binding the party together. Nonetheless, the professoriate tends to be liberal, particularly in the more relevant social sciences and humanities (scientists seem to be too busy working to pay much attention to politics, on average).

Again, I see nothing wrong with giving to Barack or Hiliary or even John Edwards. The point is that the academy IS politically left-leaning, and conservative Republicans often give lots of bucks to Alma Mater without thinking of the unintended consequences. The typical full professor at Harvard makes well over $200,000 a year with fringe benefits --do you think she would be making so much if the school did not have a $35 billion endowment given by persons that many liberal Democrats want to tax, regulate and harass? Do you think donations to political campaigns are greater from those making $200,000 at Harvard than, say, with fringe benefits, perhaps $90,000 a year for full professors teaching 17 miles away at low endowment Salem State College?

Here is the scenario in brief. Successful business career conservative economic and political outlook. Successful business career, high college contributions. High contributions, high endowments. High endowments, high salaries. High salaries, high contributions to liberal democrats.


Shawn Levasseur said...

I think this post drifts off the point of this blog, and undermines it's usual topic.

This takes the usual arguments about waste and excess in college finances, and turns it into a liberal vs. conservative thing. You risk turning away liberals who would be sympathetic to the problem increasing tuitions, by making them think the point is to not enrich individuals who disagree with you politically.

Michael said...

This post strays in many other ways, as well. First, financial contributions to one's alma mater, especially an Ivy League school, is more of a tax deductible investment in preserving a legacy than it is a genuine donation to education.

Secondly, it's surprising that anyone would still be surprised that university faculty are largely liberal. Isn't that the point of "education" - to challenge status quo, stretch the mind?

But back to the first point, perhaps the "legacy donations" are less about supporting intellectual development and more about freezing a nation's thinking in a point in time.

Michael LoBue
(Yup - a liberal)

sciencedoc said...

That's what a lot of the "conservative" attack on higher education finances is about -- politics and resentment of the leftist leanings of the university. Power politics. Note that I said finances.