Economist Steve Horwitz posted today on Facebook about something he labeled “a priori biography”:
“You start with an axiom (“libertarians are evil”) and you deduce from there. There’s no testing against empirical fact. Rather you can spin out an entire theory of modern libertarianism… right there in your armchair without ever having to find source material to support it.”
This seems the perfect description of David Safier’s recent column in the Tucson Weekly (https://www.tucsonweekly.com/…/koch-brothers-infiltrate-pim…).
In his article, Mr. Safier calls out the three authors of a new textbook designed to provide curriculum for high school teachers in the areas of ethics, economics, and entrepreneurship. He characterizes this textbook and their work as “infiltrating” high schools to spread libertarian “ideology”, apparently solely due (no other evidence is provided) to funding the U of A’s Center for the Philosophy of Freedom has received from the Koch Foundation (though he points out this project was actually funded by the Templeton Foundation).
Who are these devious authors who are trying to infiltrate our high schools and indoctrinate our youth???? Mr. Safier names them, but oddly provides no further elaboration. So I’d like to help out.
One is Dr. Cathleen Johnson, an economist specializing in experimental techniques and colleague of Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith. The second is Prof. David Schmidtz the Eller Chair of Service-Dominant Logic, Kendrick Professor of Philosophy, and founding director of the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom. The third is Prof. Robert Lusch, the longtime head of the University of Arizona’s Department of Marketing and most recently the executive director of the top ranked McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship at Eller from 2010 until 2015.
The quality of work from both Johnson and Schmidtz over their careers is evidenced by the lengths of the published records and speaks for itself (literally, just Google them). Further they are both available and may respond to Mr. Safier (or not) as they please. However, I think those of us in the community who have benefited from Prof. Lusch’s career need to speak out on his behalf.
Why?? Because unfortunately he passed away earlier this year.
I was first introduced to Robert Lusch by a college roommate who had the opportunity to work with him and be directly introduced to his ground breaking work into what he and his coauthor Stephen Vargo termed “Service-Dominant Logic”, which Wikipedia summarizes as the idea that, “…all exchanges can be viewed in terms of service-for-service exchange…” This work reshaped thinking within much of the marketing field, evidenced by Lusch and Vargo subsequently receiving awards such as the American Marketing Association’s Harold H. Maynard Award for “significant contribution to marketing theory and thought” and the Sheth Foundation Award for “long term contributions to the field of marketing.”
While his work was a guide to me as an entrepreneur and marketer, I unfortunately never met Prof. Lusch, and I don’t know enough about him to know whether he would accept even the label of “libertarian” that Mr. Safier would like to stick on him. But I certainly can reject the possibility that he would ever accept a characterization of his work as libertarian “ideology” or “indoctrination” as Mr. Safier further claims… A claim he makes without ANY references to the actual textbook material, without ANY interviews with the authors or teachers involved, without reviews from ANY experts who might be able to provide competent feedback.
Prof. Lusch was an academic of the highest standing in higher education, a man who was respected throughout his field, and whose work was the solid foundation of the work of many others, both within academia and modern commercial marketing. If you want to hear more about the man David Safier is choosing to malign from those who actually knew him, you should read the “In Memoriam” piece published last March by UA Communications (https://uaatwork.arizona.edu/lqp/memoriam-robert-lusch).
All three of the authors of this textbook are owed better from a “news” publication within their own hometown (I feel the Tucson Weekly should look closely at the quality of Mr. Safier’s “reporting” going forward), but Prof. Lusch’s memory and his family are owed an apology for this article so long on horrid innuendo but completely lacking evidence.
On a broader note, this is the terribly shallow, fact-lite, ad hominem and mud slinging that too often has masqueraded as “journalism” in Tucson and that so many good local journalists have been working to overcome (some linked herein). We don’t all have to agree, but if you are going to jump into the fun fun world of public debate, bring your A-game, not your D, F or whatever Safier and his editor obviously think are worthy of publication.