Check out David Gordon’s valuable article on the “Kochtopus,” that is, the network of libertarian think tanks funded by Charles Koch.
My own experience with the Kochtopus is complicated: in the past I’ve benefited enormously from my association with the Koch-funded Institute for Humane Studies, both intellectually and financially; they helped fund my education, they helped convert me to anarchism, and I spent three of my happiest summers in their graduate summer program (the first as a summer fellow, the other two as the director). Nor were they, in those days anyway, invariably hostile toward Rothbardianism; my copy of Power and Market (autographed by Rothbard) was a gift from IHS at my first IHS conference.
But thanks to my experience with IHS I can also testify to the truth of the somewhat anti-intellectual turn that Koch began pushing in the 1990s. I remember when Koch, evidently beginning to despair at the prospects of achieving political goals in his lifetime, became obsessed with a quick fix and decided that IHS needed to have “quantifiable results.” Massive micromanagement ensued (so much for “market-based management” – though as far as I can tell, MBM is just a way of simulating markets à la market socialism anyway). The word was to deemphasise abstract academics and emphasise policy studies instead.
These were the days that my friends and I used to refer to as “the Shadow falling on Rivendell.” First Walter Grinder – the heart and soul of the organisation as far as we were concerned – got axed. Then the management began to do things like increasing the size of student seminars, packing them in, and then giving the students a political questionnaire at the beginning of the week and another one at the end, to measure how much their political beliefs had shifted over the course of the week. (Woe betide any student who needs more than a week to mull new ideas prior to conversion!) They also started running scholarship application essays through a computer to measure how many times the “right names” (Mises, Hayek, Friedman, Rand, Bastiat, etc.) were mentioned – regardless of what was said about them!
Many IHSers protested (I recall Randy Barnett and Emilio Pacheco offhand) but to no avail. (I was at a big meeting where Koch was presenting his new strategy, and Emilio got up, visibly upset, and asked Koch whether the major historical figures of classical liberalism would have received any support under the new Koch policy; I can’t remember what Koch replied, I think he just swanned off. I reckon Emilio is a lot happier at Liberty Fund, where the attitude toward academics and historical figures is rather more congenial.)
All that said, I see from their website that IHS is still offering conferences with readings from the likes of Locke, Hume, Kant, Bentham, Madison, Calhoun, Constant, Bastiat, Spencer, Sumner, de Jouvenel, Mises, Hayek, and Rand; and its lecturers include such hardcore libertarians as Aeon Skoble, John Hasnas, and David Beito. Plus I hear good things from my students about the IHS seminars I’ve sent them to. So it looks as though the triumph of the Shadow can’t have been anything like complete; but I don’t have the inside info I used to have and so don’t know the details.