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on it.

More broadly and less literally, Gillian Clarke, the national poet of Wales, describes her own currency:

If money were water, the contents of my wallet might have flowed through pure streams and filthy gutters, might be guilty, bloodstained, diseased. The pesos passed through the fingers of drug dealers and gunmen, maybe. The cheque could be traced from its innocent signatory back through bank, investor, to hedge funds, futures, skulduggery, I am sure. They are just paper promises, earned for writing, for reading, for teaching poetry. The coins we throw into the charity box have passed through the hands of saints and thieves, without a doubt.

Clarke’s capsule history of filthy lucre is part of an argument she’s making against some of the finalists in a poetry contest dropping out of consideration when they discovered the prize money came from a hedge fund.

Broadening out yet more the problem some people have with money, Philip Larkin writes that money is filthy because it “sings” the long human history of twisted compulsion, acquisitiveness, and grubbiness… Money is about our sad, grandiose, never fulfillable, and often intensely destructive dreams…

I listen to money singing. It’s like looking down
From long french windows at a provincial town,
The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad
In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.

Spartan, dour Larkin would perhaps have agreed with spartan, dour Christopher Lasch that “Luxury is morally repugnant,” that in democracies there should be “a moral condemnation of great wealth.”

******************

So okay. But universities – like everyone and everything else – still need money, and most people believe that educating people and making research possible are good uses of it. That’s why universities get amazing tax breaks; but, again, the discomfort about immense accumulation and/or inappropriate use of university money is also why many people think continued tax breaks for multi-billionaire schools like Harvard and Princeton are wrong. It’s why some people are unhappy when billionaire alumni choose to direct hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to these same multi-billionaire schools. As Lasch suggests (other political theorists, like Michael Sandel, seem to agree), there’s something icky – something positively undemocratic – about grotesque huge personal fortunes and – in the case of universities – about grotesquely huge endowments.

And then there’s the problem of where university dollars come from. Apartheid South Africa was an overwhelmingly uncontroversial sort of divestment target, involving too many traces of cocaine, if you will, for many people to accept.

More subtle is the provenance of dollars from individuals like the Koch brothers, who hold libertarian, Tea Party-esque social and political views many people find repellent.

Catholic University has just accepted a million dollars from the Kochs to study that elusive and evanescent thing, “principled entrepreneurship.” A vocal group of Catholics has protested the gift, citing “the Kochs’s opposition to the expansion of Medicaid, hostility to public unions, and support for global warming denialists,” and pointing to the current Pope’s excoriation of “unfettered capitalism.”

Virtually all popes, far as I know, rail against unfettered capitalism, so that one (I’m sure Catholic U. has in the past taken lots of money from unfettered capitalists) doesn’t really fly; and libertarianism is certainly a respectable political position… Hell, all of the Koch’s positions, while maybe not smelling like a rose, are within the bounds of civil discourse.

You’re on safer ground when, as with apartheid, you look at what people and institutions actually do. So, for instance, when a Koch-funded group offered, a few years ago, to fund two economics professorships at Florida State University on the condition that people from the Koch-funded group get veto power over the appointments (the professors had to be sufficiently free-market and anti-regulatory in their orientation), a clear line was crossed. Similarly, also at FSU, “BB&T, the bank holding company, funds an ethics course on the condition that Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ be required reading.”

These two seem pretty obvious examples of outside groups using their money to influence what goes on in the classroom.

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7 Responses to “Let’s start here: Ninety percent of American paper money has traces of cocaine …”

  1. charlie Says:

    The question, imo, isn’t the politics of the Koch brothers, rather, it’s one of why is it that two men have been capable of aggregating so much power, so much so, they’re determining curriculum and hiring. They have no academic background, they’ve backed so very suspicious voter id measures, their agenda has little public support. So why do these guys rate? Reason being that the US has no functioning democracy. Jimmy Carter is correct, it’s gone, and the unis reflect that conclusion. Having been bred a catholic, my family and I were bombarded with supplications to fund Catholic U, that its creation was done in order to insure scholarly religious research. None of us had any influence regarding the schools administration, yet the Koch brothers do, which indicates how craven even our moral authorities have become….

  2. AYY Says:

    I don’t see what the problem is with the Koch brothers trying to have some say in how their money is being used. There’s no purpose to the gift if the college can hire someone who will subvert its purpose.

  3. charlie Says:

    @AVY, you know, you’re on to something here. We can’t trust to hire people who won’t subvert its purpose, whatever that means. In keeping with that thinking, colleges should take money from oil companies, with the caveat that no more research be done on problems with fracking. They can get Wall Street investment houses to pony up huge money, as long as the business departments and law schools no longer investigate what went wrong with financial deregulation and the attendant fraud. Man, the possibilities are endless.

    But, see, there’s a problem, a university stops being one if they’re prohibited from doing investigative research. Many, including me, say that they’ve already abandoned their mission to chase after money, e.g., Koch bros. But then, it would be too apparent that the administration has become a whored out appendage of the super wealthy, and no longer serves a public purpose. It may trigger some to question the tax free status of the institutions, which would be the final kick in the groin that the unis deserve…

  4. Van L. Hayhow Says:

    Certainly Universities shouldn’t give up their autonomy for the money but imagine if I funded a chair in history to specialize in WWII (as both my parents were in the US army during that war) and the university wound up hiring a holocaust denier or pro-Nazi historian?

  5. charlie Says:

    @Van L Hayhow, if there is a problem with who the university hires or what they teach, don’t give them your money. Problem solved. The more serious problem would be that a university fails in its most important task, the free flow of any idea, whatever that may be, where that may take them. It isn’t the task of a academic department to make you or anyone else comfortable, nor is it the student’s obligation to believe any and all things thrown at them by their professors. Academia is the place to challenge any and all thinking, that’s the point of creating tenure, after all….

  6. AYY Says:

    Charlie:
    Every week UD has several posts demonstrating why we can’t trust universities to hire people who won’t subvert the purposes of the university, and she doesn’t even get into the problems with cultural Marxism. In fact we can’t trust a college not to hire someone like Bill Ayers, or Tom Hayden, or Ward Churchill just to mention a few that come to mind.

    “If there is a problem with who the university hires or what they teach, don’t give them your money. Problem solved.”

    Nope. The problem is not solved. It’s perpetuated.

  7. charlie Says:

    AYY; unis have begun to use the “business model” to run their campuses, meaning that they’re in it for the money. The upshot is a uniform and efficient mode of corruption, where unis have far more administrators, people who don’t teach nor do research, skimming from the top. Nearly every uni in this country has followed the same method of scamming students, precisely because we have allowed guys like Koch bros, who don’t know anything about education, but have a political agenda, to determine what takes place. And far more devastating has been the Wall Street takeover of higher education, the result has been massive criminality within the financial aide departments, which has been investigated and documented by former NYAG Andrew Cuomo, and followed up by a Senate report, which confirmed the mess uncovered by Cuomo.

    That’s the issue, not your lament of professors you don’t agree with. The university isn’t supposed to make the likes of you happy, nor comfortable. If you want to live in your little walled off, insular world, that’s your problem. Your nonsense of ‘cultural marxism’ is blown up if you bother to understand the underlying sentiment of most unis, that is, not to present an alternative way of thinking, in fact, it’s not to get people to think. The unis are rolling out a uniform product, students who spend little time reading or thinking, which has been documented repeatedly on this here blog. The fact is we have fewer voices such as Churchill, or anyone who has an alternative view of things. That’s the point, that unis have abandoned the whole point of their existence, and turned to making money for the a select few…

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