by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef documents for Forbes readers the onset of a peculiar affliction related to two high-profile libertarians.
On June 6, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) announced the receipt of the fifth largest donation in its history — $25 million from Charles and David Koch.
Had the money come from any other source, we would have smiley faces all around. But because the Koch brothers have been so relentlessly demonized by defenders of the mega-state (Harry Reid denounces them as “un-American” on the Senate floor; others use language much worse than that), the gift has led to spasms of outrage.
As we read in the Inside Higher Education story about the Koch gift, Koch haters let fly at UNCF. One person fumed that UNCF had “literally sold its soul to the Devil.” (How about a grant to UNCF or some other group to combat the misuse of the word “literally”?) Another declared that by accepting the funds, UNCF “tells children that money comes first and integrity is unnecessary.”
University of Pennsylvania professor Marybeth Gasman argued that UNCF should reject the money because it is tainted with the Koch brothers’ political advocacy, which she says works “to undermine the interests of African Americans and the institutions that support them.” The Kochs want to shrink the federal government, but Gasman objects, saying that federal programs “built the black middle class.”
The notion that government programs have been essential for the upward mobility of African Americans (and other groups) is received wisdom among many academicians like Professor Gasman, but it is mistaken. They look only at the winners from government policies and declare them successful, never seeing the greater number of losers. (This is yet another illustration of Bastiat’s famous point about seen and unseen consequences of government interventions.) …
… People like Professor Gasman should reexamine their assumption that expansive government is necessary for minority groups to advance. There is a mountain of evidence to the contrary.
For the sake of argument, however, let’s go with the idea that the Koch brothers are malevolent and desire to do grievous harm to African Americans. Even so, does it make any sense to argue that UNCF should refuse the $25 million?
I can’t see how it does. Money is fungible. Any dollar has exactly the same worth as any other dollar. Money is also sterile – it does not magically transmit whatever real or imaginary evil the person who earned it may have done to the next person who takes the dollar in trade or as a gift. Quite a few people who have done horrible things during their lives make bequests to their churches. Those churches are not contaminated with the crimes of the givers.
If UNCF keeps the Koch funds, it will be able to significantly increase the number of scholarships it can give. That’s a good thing – an outcome desired by both parties.
Refusing the donation would not hurt the Koch brothers in their allegedly nefarious, anti-government political agenda. In fact, it would leave them with more money with which to pursue that agenda, while leaving UNCF with less money for its good works. That would be a bad trade-off.