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Princeton Tilts Right

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Point Man for the 'Fifty-Year Project'

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Max Blumenthal
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles...

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Reform legislation has stalled, and the private-prison industry is making obscene profits from a captive population.

In a bloody career that spanned decades, he destroyed entire cities and presided over the killing of countless civilians.

For decades conservatives have viewed America's university system as a dangerous cradle of radicalism. Frank Chodorov, founder of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), was among the first to propose a campaign to assert right-wing influence over universities as a central tactic in the conservative movement's grand strategy.

"What the socialists have done can be undone, if there is a will for it," Chodorov wrote in his 1962 autobiography, Out of Step. "Individualism can be revived by implanting the ideas in the minds of the coming generations.... It is, in short, a fifty-year project."

Under the guidance of former Nixon Treasury Secretary William Simon, who once compared universities to insane asylums, industrial chieftains like John Olin, Harry and Lynde Bradley, and Richard Mellon Scaife bankrolled the fifty-year project, funneling whopping grants to outfits like Accuracy in Academia and ISI. While Accuracy in Academia hyped and, on occasion, manufactured supposed "campus political correctness atrocities," ISI provided a support structure for right-wing academics while grooming a cadre of student activists to, in the group's own words, "battle the radicals and PC types on campuses."

Thanks in no small part to such outside right-wing funding, Princeton's conservative tradition is among the most robust of American universities. When Princeton lifted its quota on black students in the late 1960s, then began admitting women in 1969, a group of disgruntled right-wing alumni--who would eventually be joined by Samuel Alito, now a Supreme Court Justice--formed the Concerned Alumni of Princeton to fight back. Later on, with financial backing from well-heeled sources, conservative students founded a magazine called The Princeton Tory, which once declared "Open Season on Liberals," featuring a photograph of a rifle-toting hunter on its cover. If anyone was being intimidated on campus, it was not conservatives.

George's arrival at Princeton was greeted with intense enthusiasm by conservative outfits interested in establishing a foothold there. In 1995, the Earhart Foundation, a major donor to ISI, began subsidizing him with annual "summer money" payments of up to $25,000.

That same year, Earhart waded into an ethical swamp when it bankrolled a glowing review of George's book Making Men Moral. The reviewer was Christopher Wolfe, a Marquette University professor and longtime friend and collaborator of George's. (In 1999 George contributed to Wolfe's antigay tract Homosexuality and American Public Life, and the two co-edited another volume, Natural Law and Public Reason.)

Earhart paid Wolfe the unusual sum of $7,000 to review the book for ISI's Political Science Reviewer. "In a better world," Wolfe gushed, "'Making Men Moral' would bring about a revolution in contemporary thought on civil liberties." He concluded with a prediction that George's future work would be "one of the most important intellectual and political projects of our generation." (Wolfe acknowledged a relationship with the Earhart Foundation in his article.)

Asked about the ethics of an outside foundation paying a professor $7,000 for a review essay in an academic journal, Rogers Smith, professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and governing council member of the American Political Science Association, responded, "That would be scandalous, clearly a breach of professional standards of intellectual honesty." Jeffrey Isaac, professor of political science at Indiana University and book review editor of the APSA's Perspectives on Politics, said, "I would never publish a review that has been financed outside, under any circumstances." Claiming he could not recall Wolfe's review, George told me, "I don't have any trouble with collaborators reviewing my books."

Wolfe brushed aside questions about any ethical problem with his review. In an e-mailed response, he defended himself: "By its critical analysis of certain parts of George's argument, the article was part of an ongoing debate about the proper understanding of natural law theory within the community of natural law-oriented scholars. For the Earhart Foundation to provide support for scholarship of this sort raises no ethical questions at all (except in the positive ethical sense that they are providing a valuable public service)."

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