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Sherlock Hibbs died in 2002 and left five million dollars to the University of Missouri. The grant instructions he left stated that Mizzou was supposed to use the money to endow chairs in economics with a strange provision that the money would revert to Hillsdale College if those positions were not filled with professors who are “dedicated and articulate disciples of the Ludwig von Mises Austrian School of Economics.”

I do not know this for certain, but it appears Mizzou used the money to hire several management and marketing faculty—Dan Turban, Karen Schnatterly, Rhonda Reger, & Lisa Scheer—none of whom appear to have any connection to the “Ludwig von Mises Austrian School of Economics.” A quick internet search reveals no evidence that any of them have ever published anything in the realm of Austrian economics.

In response, Hillsdale College has sued the University of Missouri, claiming the five million dollars should go to Hillsdale because Mizzou betrayed the explicit intentions of Mr. Hibbs. In response to the lawsuit, a Mizzou administrator drafted a statement that was signed by the four management and marketing professors stating they are “dedicated and articulate disciples of the Ludwig von Mises Austrian School of Economics.”

This story strikes close to home for me in a couple of ways: I taught at Hillsdale College from 2005-2010. I was the Hillsdale “Professor of the Year” in 2009.

And I’ve been in this space—donors wanting to influence what is taught at universities and how—for many years. It almost never works out.

Donors give money to a university to teach X, assuming the professors will be believers in and disciples of X, and then the university turns around and hires faculty to teach X who are anti-X. Newsflash: A communist with a PhD can teach a class on Adam Smith. A progressive with a Ph.D. can teach a class on the United States Constitution. It happens all the time. It’s the norm, in fact, in the world of higher education.

For those who love individual freedom and the human flourishing that follows, for those who cherish free markets, private property, and open competition among businesses, for those who want more not less innovation, invention, and entrepreneurial creativity, please, don’t give your hard-earned money to public universities (or to most private ones). Send your money elsewhere. Invest in organizations that either teach practical, productive skills or the freedom that our universities have done so much to destroy.

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