Senator Warren's war on academic freedom

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) obviously doesn’t think much of her former colleagues in academia. Last week she forced the resignation of a Brookings Institute researcher who disagreed with her about the costs of a labor rule she and the president support by claiming his study’s funding source conflicted his findings. 

Apparently Ms. Warren believes economist Dr. Robert Litan would discard a 40-year affiliation with Brookings, including time as its director of economic studies; a government career, which included associate director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton administration; and his reputation for integrity all for the grand total of $38,000.


Her bullying worked; Mr. Litan resigned from Brookings within hours of Warren’s objection.


That Brookings head Strobe Talbot would fold like a cheap suitcase on the pressure of nothing more than a piqued letter says as much about Warren’s power as it does his fortitude.


The progressive icon apparently believes scholarship is illegitimate if funded from an unbefitting, i.e. nongovernment source. As the Wall Street Journal noted, “The Warren agenda is to force liberal intellectuals to report that government is an unalloyed good, business is bad, and corporate sponsorship is corrupt. This is corrosive to the Democratic Party and the country.” (For his part Litan stands by his work and invites academic challenges to his conclusions).


Warren’s approach aligns with her tendency to shut up anyone who doesn’t agree with her all while hiding her own questionable conflicts. And it’s not just the Journal that found her actions untoward. Her war on academic freedom is not playing well even in Democrat circles.


A group of left-leaning economist blasted the Bay State Senator in a letter shortly after the Litan scalping. The group which included Harvard professors and former Clinton administration officials stated, “Those who differ with Litan should offer a substantive rebuttal to the paper in question, which would do much more to clarify the issue than implicitly depicting him as being inherently corrupted by the sponsorship of his work . . . To attack him as being ‘bought,’ or to sever ties with him over an incidental bureaucratic issue, is below the standards that support free and open policy debate.”


But this assumes Warren wants “free and open policy debate.” The evidence suggests the opposite. She has called for ending the democratizing effects of Citizens United v. FEC, through a First Amendment-inimical constitutional amendment. In her last campaign she promoted the so-called “Peoples Pledge” which did nothing to lower costs but lots to diminish the number of speakers hostile to her campaign. And in that same race she demagogued corporatism while coyly avoiding discussing her own former corporate clients.


But that’s just the beginning. As National Review reports:

The senator maintains a cozy relationship with Better Markets, a Washington, D.C.–based 501(c)3 organization funded almost exclusively by multi-millionaire hedge-fund manager Michael Masters. The hedge funder’s advocacy group is so tight with progressives’ favorite senator that the two often operate as a united front in the fight for stricter financial regulations — Better Markets’s stake in the finance industry notwithstanding. . .

By failing to adequately disclose its relationship with Masters to lawmakers, observers say Better Markets is doing exactly what Warren accused Brookings of doing — covertly taking money from a finance-industry player to influence regulators with the power to approve policies from which that player can earn huge profits.


Apparently for Warren, full disclosure and disqualifying conflicts, as her former Harvard colleague Larry Lessig might say, is only for the little guy.


By Paul Jossey