In today's Pope Center piece, my colleague Jay Schalin writes about the flap over the fact that some colleges have accepted funds from BB&T Foundation with the proviso that the money be used to support courses in which students will learn about Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism and in particular her defense of laissez-faire capitalism. The argument raised against this is that colleges are supposed to allow the faculty to decide upon curricular matters. Naturally, some professors who are adamantly hostile to the case for laissez-faire (although I doubt that many have ever read Rand's Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal or have heard a thorough explication of the damaging consequences of government interference in the spontaneous order of the free market) say that schools should shun BB&T money. Jay gets a whiff of double standard here, since professors on the left don't much complain about the importation of material into the curriculum they find congenial. Rather than a defense of princple, their stance seems to be an instance of selective indignation. Econ 101 is often taught as a dull, mechanistic and to many students baffling exercise in graphs and abstruse theories having little apparent relationship with life. Adding a BB&T catalyzed course that allows students to see how Rand and other advocates of laissez-faire (Ludwig von Mises, e.g.) looked at economic questions would be a beneficial offering. Colleges should be open to the marketplace of ideas. Like the marketplace of goods and services, sound ideas tend to win out and unsound ideas tend to be rejected. (I say "tend" because it doesn't happen automatically. After all, we still have cigarettes in stores and professors who preach socialism.) John Allison of BB&T is trying to get colleges to open their curricula to another idea (or set of ideas). No harm in that.
- July 23, 2010