Quite a morning on Facebook. First, someone posted a link to this NDPR review, which prompted this reflection on my part:
The choice of doing a review or not on Objectivism entails a bit of a double-bind: "sunlight is the best disinfectant" (or less obnoxiously, "let's let the marketplace of ideas* do its work") vs "recognition lends legitimacy." The choice of reviewer is equally problematic: with a highly polarizing topic the choice of a friend or a foe stacks the deck and neutral observers are difficult to find. The Stanford EP article on Objectivism was discussed critically along those lines a while ago if I'm not mistaken.
Subsequent discussion led me to this Forbes column on (often privately funded) university centers for "free market oriented policy research."
Among the striking passages:
For centuries universities have been the traditional centers of learning and the diffusion of learning. They should also be the place for studying policy and liberty. Efforts to promote liberty studies continued.... Other strategic philanthropic investors increased their funding and helped start new university and college-based programs. They include: industrialist Charles Koch; Jack Miller, who sold Quill Corporation to Staples; and banker John Allison, now president of Cato. Today there are approximately 150 such efforts. They range from well-structured centers to research projects and honors program.
Given the ideological and managerial challenges at universities, as well as their reliance on government funding, their environment will not be ideal for market-oriented think tanks. But with well-designed safeguards several will succeed. Some of the centers mentioned above receive most or all of their funding through separate non-profit entities, which are independent from the university. This protects donor intent in case these centers and efforts lose favor with the authorities.
But with the private funding issue we're back to the double-bind I think, as we can see that taking the "Marketplace of Ideas" or "Republic of Letters" position may simply be playing into the hands of those (mixed metaphor alert) taking the Road from Mont Pelerin, i.e., another "long march through the institutions."
* See what I did there?