In the US Powell had called for various actions to be taken with respect to universities including evaluating social science textbooks for their ideological stance, insisting on the right to be heard on the college speaking circuit and urging that pro-business people be included in university administrations and on boards of trustees.
Many took up Powell’s call for selective corporate funding of universities. David Packard made the same plea to a Committee for Corporate Support of American Universities in 1973 and a couple of years later James J. Kilpatrick, a columnist with Nation’s Business reiterated that it was a bizarre custom that ‘corporations, whose future depends upon the preservation of a free enterprise system’ would ‘give large sums of money to institutions whose faculties regard free enterprise with contempt’.
William Simon, a former Treasury Secretary, also attacked universities for criticizing capitalism and, as Powell had, argued that corporations should not fund universities that were critical in this way but rather put their money into those universities that were business friendly. Many academics saw this as a form of blackmail but others submitted. By 1977 the Joint Council on Economic Education (JCEE), an umbrella group for the state Councils on Economic Education, was funnelling money from business to some 155 university centres and 360 school district programmes that helped teachers give instruction on the free enterprise economy.
The conservative foundations who were pouring money into think tanks and other advocacy groups also funded conservative university programs, chairs of free enterprise and private enterprise, college and university newspapers and student publications with the right slant, and scholarships for the right sort of people. In this way, ‘by strategically leveraging their resources’ they ‘engineered the rise of a right-wing intelligentsia that has come to wield enormous influence in national policy debates’.
By 1979 corporations were underwriting more than 40 academic centres and chairs of free enterprise. For example Goodyear Tire & Rubber financed the chair of free enterprise at Kent State University, where market economics was taught to undergraduates and Pepsico, Phillips Petroleum and Dow Chemical funded Texas A&M University’s Center for Education and Research in Free Enterprise which trained high school teachers in economics.
Simon became president of the Olin Foundation in 1977 as well as being on the boards of the Heritage Foundation and other neoconservative think tanks. With Simon at the helm, the Olin Foundation funded a number of programs, including economics programs, fellowships and chairs at leading US universities including Yale and Harvard. It funded 33 new student publications. Simon and Irving Kristol also established the Institute for Educational Affairs (IEA):
Its purpose is to seek out promising Ph.D. candidates and undergraduate leaders, help them to establish themselves through grants and fellowships and then help them get jobs with activist organizations, research projects, student publications, federal agencies, or leading periodicals. I.E.A. received start-up grants of $100,000 from the Olin, Scaife, J.M. and Smith Richardson foundations, as well as substantial contributions from Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, Ford Motor Co., General Electric, K-Mart, Mobil and Nestle corporations.
The University of Texas established an Institute for Constructive Capitalism in 1979 which aimed ‘to construct a modern ethical and philosophical basis for capitalism’. Mobil, Shell Oil, Tenneco and other corporations donated millions of dollars to it. Similarly the University of Southern California established a Center for the Study of Private Enterprise in 1976 with the aim of enlisting business leaders in ‘political activism’. The center published pamphlets explaining how employers could ‘educate’ employees to influence government policy. It also distributed bumper stickers saying ‘The American Economic System: It works when we do’.
It was claimed that teachers who did Georgia State University’s teachers’ courses not only increased their knowledge of economics but subsequently spent three times as much time teaching economics to their school students after the course as they had before. The University of Miami put on workshops for journalists ‘and others who interpret economics for the public’ as well as lawyers and judges. Dr Marilyn Kourilsky, the Willard Eccles Chair of Economics at Weber State College (Utah), developed a program of environmental education for kindergarten children entitled ‘Kinder-Economy’. This involved half an hour a day teaching economic concepts with the children playing at running businesses.