Why doesn't the left fund big ideas? Why doesn't the progressive left in America fund the study of big ideas? Much to their credit, libertarians and conservatives in the U.S. discovered long ago the importance of supporting students, academics, journalists, policy-makers, and publicizers. For example, having attended a couple of seminars and events sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies and the Liberty Fund, I'm continually impressed by their organization, dedication, and out-reach to students. These groups know how to cultivate ideas in future opinion-makers, and they are investing their money wisely. What I want to know is why aren't progressives (or, alternatively, left libertarians) doing the same? It's not that there are progressive organizations that do this work but just not as well. There is simply no equivalent at all.

More generally, consider the major influence of the big three libertarian and conservative think-tanks: the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute. Americans on the left don't take these organizations seriously enough. Certainly not seriously enough to imitate them--which is exactly what the left should be doing.

So here's the question again: why doesn't the left invest in idea-making organizations to counter the influence of the right? Over the next four days, I'm going to post the Four Myths. One a day--hopefully.

Myth #1: The left doesn't have the money.

Answer: Consider these numbers (which are all taken from the Foundation Center):

Foundations on the Right:

Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation: $579,739,000;
Sarah Scaife Foundation: $323,029,669;
John M. Olin Foundation: $71,196,916;
Carthage Foundation: $23,705,949.

Foundations on the Left/Center-Left:

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation: $4,215,930,831;
Rockefeller Foundation: $3,162,542,434.00;
Florence and John Schumann Foundation: $75,304,792;
Irene Diamond Fund: $36,416,600;
J. Roderick MacArthur Foundation: $34,336,978.

So do the math--it's not a money issue. The money is there. The question is why doesn't the left use it to develop organizations devoted to making big ideas? Three more myths on the way . . .

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