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Letter: Debate around Political Theory Project misses the point

To the Editor:

While I admire Associate Professor of History Seth Rockman’s free market ideals regarding Brown’s “marketplace of ideas” mentioned in his recent letter “Why does the PTP feel the need to pay its students?”, I believe the general debate of late in The Herald regarding the Political Theory Project signifies what’s wrong with discourse at Brown. Speaking as someone who is not on the Koch dole, it’s possible that the PTP relies so significantly upon the sloshing of Koch dollars since, otherwise, such voices would fossilize at Brown. But as SPEAK (Brown’s coalition for ideologically diverse speakers) has demonstrated, Brown overwhelmingly invites a narrow range of ideological viewpoints to campus. So what does restricting outsider competition sound more like: free market or monopoly?

Whether it be the recent Herald contributors Julia Rock ’19, Harry August ’19 or Daniel Shemano ’19, we no longer explore the big questions. Let’s start arguing why buzzwords surrounding the Kochs such as “libertarian,” “anti-government,” “free markets,” etc. are or aren’t poor ideas and stop quibbling over who has paid for whose lunch. This is the language barrier of political polarization; one person’s radical agenda is another’s thriving discourse is another’s conflict of interest. Hope exists. The last paragraph of Rock and August’s op-ed began to slip from rhetoric regarding PTP financing to rhetoric regarding PTP viewpoints. And to Shemano, I add that I would be thrilled if one day I opened The Herald and found a detailed, thoughtful, data-driven argument in support of a specific principle or policy of the PTP that is unpopular on campus.

Jimmy Thompson ’20

Jimmy Thompson is currently enrolled in classes taught by John Tomasi, director of the PTP, and Rockman.


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