Letters to the Editor, Opinions

Letter: Beware insults to students’ judgment

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

To the Editor:

Harry August ’19 and Julia Rock ’19 (“Beware the PTP,” March 5) wish to “warn students that (the Political Theory Project) is not a center for ‘thriving intellectual discourse,’” referring to a previous op-ed by Daniel Shemano ’19.

Were August and Rock so concerned with intellectual discourse, they should have done their research. The authors correctly note that several professors affiliated with the PTP have degrees from George Mason University. They neglect recent postdoctoral fellows and visiting faculty at the PTP with degrees from Tulane University, Georgetown University, the University of Alabama, the University of Chicago, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Maastricht University, King’s College London and the Technical University of Munich.

August and Rock assert that PTP faculty have received sham awards either bestowed by their own graduate program or by Koch-affiliated organizations. As the authors should know, internal department awards for graduate students are common practice. And as the authors could have easily discovered, the editors of the journal Public Choice award the Gordon Tullock Prize, which the journal’s publisher, Springer, funds.

August and Rock claim PTP faculty repeatedly publish in “Koch and GMU-affiliated journals.” They neglect publications in journals such as Public Choice, American Journal of Economics and Sociology, American Political Science Review, Rationality and Society and Journal of Institutional Economics. One GMU alum recently hired by the PTP received the prestigious William H. Riker Award for Best Book in Political Economy from the American Political Science Association.

Faculty affiliated with the PTP in recent years have written on the history of “labor republicanism” in the United States, defended meritocracy and free time as requirements of social justice, argued for the intelligence of democratic institutions, criticized libertarian theories of personal responsibility and analyzed how prison gangs govern the American penal system. If the authors ever took a seminar through the PTP, their professor would expect them to grapple with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx and John Rawls as well as Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.

In the final analysis, the authors take a dim view of Brown students. Perhaps their dim view explains their style of cheap shots and lazy argumentation. They do not think their peers have the capacity or judgment to weigh the arguments and make up their own minds. They should have more confidence in their fellows.

Nick Geiser GS

Nick Geiser GS has received compensation from the PTP for conference travel and as a teaching assistant.