How the Koch Brothers Used Public Funds to Set up Shop at Texas Tech - 2016-09-26
But for this crowd of libertarian economists largely on the margins of mainstream American university life, the conference was also a chance to rub shoulders with their benefactors, right-wing think tanks and funders in the Charles and David Koch network. Beneath the veneer of abstruse Austrian economic theory, this was a place to make a sales pitch — a sort of free market for free-market ideologues.
Benjamin Powell's talk seemed particularly savvy in that regard. Powell is the executive director of the Free Market Institute (FMI) at Texas Tech University, a 3-year-old organization largely bankrolled by the Koch network and other conservative interests and individuals. Most of the FMI staff had decamped to Vegas for the conference. Powell was preceded by Bruce Benson, who as chair of Florida State University's economics department defended an agreement that allowed the Charles Koch Foundation to have final say in faculty hiring. Powell's talk, "The Global Spread of Think Tanks and Economic Freedom," had a simple hypothesis: The rise of free-market think tanks had made "the world more free." Now he just needed to get his hands on the data that would show the connection.
The idea that free-market think tanks — largely supported by corporations and wealthy ideologues — are bringing a love of unbridled markets, deregulation and small government to the world would certainly have an appeal for this crowd.