Monday, March 29, 2010

Scholarship at the AEI

In the wake of the firing of Frum, Charles Murray makes an unintentionally revealing post on the nature of the AEI and AEI scholarship.

Murray is also an AEI fellow, but he purports to be posting independently. In particular he states: I do not have any certain information to convey about David’s departure, except what Arthur Brooks has already said publicly: David resigned.

In other words the only "certain information" that Murray is stating is best described as a lie. While Murray's statement may be technically a true statement, it is intended to deceive and thus a lie. Murray is no doubt aware that the condition under which Frum could remain was to go from being paid what Murray describes as a 'handsome salary' to being unpaid. To insist of calling this a 'resignation' is dishonest.

Once we understand that this is the game Murray plays, we can see that the apparent denial of donor pressure influencing AEI policy in Murray's third paragraph is in fact nothing of the sort. Murray describes a very specific scenario in which donor pressure does not take place "The idea that AEI donors sit down to talk with AEI’s president...". The scenario is presented as being a 'fantasy', but nowhere is there actually a denial.

Murray is again being intentionally deceptive. As he must know, Frum alleged only that he was told not to write on Health Care Reform as it was likely to upset the donors. He did not allege that the donors made any complaint, which is the charge Murray decides to rebut.

After stating that he has no information, Murray theorizes that the reason for Frum's departure is his lack of work for the Institute. Murray himself admits to drawing a salary on the same basis, but gives no explanation for why Frum was forced to resign and he was not.

In making this complaint against Frum, Murray unintentionally admits one of the principal charges critics make against the AEI: it disburses patronage to Conservatives who toe the party line without expecting anything in return beyond use of their name on the letterhead. But for the pseudo-academic patina of his AEI 'fellowship', Charles Murray would be just another crank who wrote a covert racist screed.

But then look at how Murray finishes his piece:

I think that’s what happened. I also think that for David to have leveled the charge that Arthur Brooks caved in to donor pressure, knowing that the charge would be picked up and spread beyond recall, knowing that such a charge strikes at the core of the Institute’s integrity, and making such a sensational charge without a shred of evidence, is despicable.

Here Murray unintentionally demonstrates a complete lack of any capacity for self-examination. The next sentence after making a charge he admits he has no evidence for, Murray accuses Frum of having made a charge without a shred of evidence.

As Murray himself admits, he has no evidence other than what is in the public domain. While Frum has provided no evidence to support his assertion that members of the AEI were told not to write on health care, the AEI has made no attempt to refute the charge and no evidence has been presented to show the contrary. Since it is implied that Frum himself was one of the people told not to write on Health Care Reform, his own testimony is evidence. Now whether the word of Frum alone is persuasive (he was an AEI scholar after all), it is clearly not true to claim that there is no evidence.

If Charles Murray is representative of AEI 'scholarship', it is an institution whose integrity is not so much compromised as non-existent.

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