Opinion: George Mason University programs raise concerns

I was interested to see that a recent writer to the Independent objecting to GMO labeling had achieved a degree in economics from George Mason University where he read the ideas of economist F. A. Hayek. George Mason University is an institution in Virginia where, in the mid-1980s, Charles and David Koch, the conservative billionaire industrialists, “began to establish an academic beachhead of their own” according to Jane Mayer in her book, Dark Money. The Koch family donated $30 million to the university and established an economics research center named the Mercatus Center, described in TheWashington Postas (again, this is from Jane Mayer’s book) a “staunchly anti-regulatory center funded largely by Koch Industries, Inc.”
Apparently, much of the work at Mercatus Center is based on the conservative economic theories of F. A. Hayek, who was awarded a Nobel Prize in economics in 1974. Hayek’s concepts were widely read, and Margaret Thatcher adopted them as the model for her economic policies in Britain (1979-1990). When she left office, she had effectively destroyed the power of the British trade unions, significantly reduced the industrial output of her country and had created economic conditions so appalling that 28 percent of the children in Britain were living in poverty.
In America, Hayek’s theories influenced the questionable “trickle-down” economic policies of both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, who awarded Hayek the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991. Hayek visited the nation of Chile during the monstrous rule of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), where Hayek was named the chair of the Chilean Center for Public Studies, the institution that reformed Chile’s economy to the liking of Pinochet’s military junta. At first, Chile’s GDP and inflation improved, but by the end of Pinochet’s regime, the economy collapsed, the trade unions were dismantled, unemployment rose to 30 percent and half of the Chilean people lived in poverty.
To achieve economic control, Pinochet’s government had killed an estimated 3,000 persons and tortured an estimated 28,000. Yet, in spite of this history, Hayek’s theories remain at the heart of the conservative movement in the United States. George Mason University also houses The Institute for Humane Studies, which was established by F. A. Harper, an economist who was opposed to taxation, welfare programs, labor unions, and who disagreed with court intervention to correct injustices such as racial segregation. This institute is also financed by Charles Koch. The purpose of Mercator Center and The Institute for Humane Studies, contends Jane Mayer, is to produce conservative/libertarian scholars who will spread the gospel of “free market” — that is, an absence of government regulation over the U.S. financial sector and over corporations.
Imagine a scenario in which these George Mason University graduates, groomed and funded by mega-billionaires like the Koch brothers, win seats in state legislatures and administrations. We have already seen the results in Wisconsin and North Carolina where the conservative legislatures and executive officers systematically dismantle public employee unions, lower taxes on the wealthy, reduce programs to aid low-income families, raise taxes on working people and reduce government controls on corporations. Control of state government allows conservatives to gerrymander their legislative districts to ensure that those district seats in Washington are won by conservative candidates.
I do not wonder that a George Mason graduate would oppose GMO labeling or any other government regulation of corporations. Consider the consequences for working families if this philosophy gains supremacy in the U.S. Senate and House.
Millard Cox

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