'Almost Wholly Negative': The Ford Foundation's Appraisal of the Virginia School

48 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2014

See all articles by David M. Levy

David M. Levy

George Mason University - Center for Study of Public Choice

Sandra J. Peart

University of Richmond - Jepson School of Leadership Studies

Date Written: August 22, 2014

Abstract

In 1960 the Thomas Jefferson Center [TJC] of the University of Virginia applied for a “massive” grant from the Ford Foundation. Although James Buchanan, Warren Nutter and Ronald Coase had all received grants from Ford, Ford turned down their proposal because of the Center’s unified “point of view.” We report on correspondence and private discussions of the events. Following the submission of their proposal, Buchanan, Nutter and then President of UVA, Edgar Shannon met with representatives of the Ford Foundation, Tom Carroll and Kermit Gordon. Buchanan concluded that the “reaction of the Ford representatives must be considered to have been almost wholly negative.” The crux of the matter, in Gordon’s assessment was the TJC reflected “a single ‘point of view’.” As the conversation unfolded, it became clear to the UVA representatives that by this the Foundation officials meant a narrow ideological perspective, one in line with Chicago-style economics. Buchanan attempted to dispel this conclusion, arguing that the program was “sufficiently broad” to “encompass wide and divergent points of view.” Coase was particularly incensed by allegation of ideological narrowness since, as he explained, he had close ties to the Fabian Society Despite the attempts of both Coase and Buchanan to defend their proposal, Ford officials turned down the application and the TJC never fully recovered.

Suggested Citation

Levy, David M. and Peart, Sandra J., 'Almost Wholly Negative': The Ford Foundation's Appraisal of the Virginia School (August 22, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2485695 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2485695

David M. Levy (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Center for Study of Public Choice ( email )

MSN 1d3 Carow Hall
4400 University
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Sandra J. Peart

University of Richmond - Jepson School of Leadership Studies ( email )

Jepson Hall
Richmond, VA 23173
United States

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