Libertarian Shenanigans

George Mason University, a public university of the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the home of what is probably the most prominent libertarian economics department in the US, or maybe the world.  Part of its fame comes from the presence of Tyler Cowen, an amazingly prolific blogger on a whole range of topics, from food to chess, but mainly on economics.  Also notable in their presence are Robin Hanson, recently called out as possibly The Creepiest Professor in America:
If you’ve ever heard of George Mason University economist Robin Hanson, there’s a good chance it was because he wrote something creepy. Over the years, the libertarian-leaning professor has become notorious in certain circles for his odd and disconcerting dips into socio-sexual commentary; he once mused on his blog, for instance, about whether women who suffered a “gentle, silent rape” were really worse off than men who experienced infidelity. Last week, Hanson was back at it again. In a post that left many readers agog, he decided to use a heinous incident of misogynistic violence as an opportunity to contemplate the concept of “redistributing” sex to men who have trouble getting laid.
My guess is that there is a lot of competition for that "Creepiest Professor" title, so I wouldn't take that accusation very seriously.  Another GMU economer getting some ink in my light cone is Bryan Caplan.  Scott Aaronson writes:
If ever a book existed that I’d judge harshly by its cover—and for which nothing inside could possibly make me reverse my harsh judgment—Bryan Caplan’s The Case Against Education would seem like it.  The title is not a gimmick; the book’s argument is exactly what it says on the tin.  Caplan—an economist at George Mason University, home of perhaps the most notoriously libertarian economics department on the planet—holds that most of the benefit of education to students (he estimates around 80%, but certainly more than half) is about signalling the students’ preexisting abilities, rather than teaching or improving the students in any way.  He includes the entire educational spectrum in his indictment, from elementary school all the way through college and graduate programs.
Of course Scott is way too fair minded not to give Caplan and his argument their due, or more than their due, so I really don't plan to read the book, for fear that I might be infected. (That's a joke, folks - I'm not that fair minded).

Meanwhile, in a story that appeared very briefly in the press and then vanished like a May snow, a lawsuit revealed something that GMU had tried very hard to conceal:
 For years, students and faculty members at George Mason University have been asking questions about their institution’s relationship with the Charles Koch Foundation. On Friday, they got some new answers.
In response to an open-records request, George Mason released a series of agreements between the institution and donors to fund the appointments of some economics professors between 2003 and 2011. The agreements show that the Koch Foundation and other donors had room to influence the selection and work of the professors whose positions they spent millions to support.
 Late Friday evening, Ángel Cabrera, the university’s president, sent an email to faculty members saying that the agreements, which were signed before he took over at George Mason, "fall short of the standards of academic independence I expect any gift to meet."
This story surprised practically nobody who had been paying attention. 







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