MacArthur Foundation: $100k for Ideas to Make Government Bigger

MacArthur Foundation: $100k for Ideas to Make Government Bigger

The MacArthur Foundation, which broadly supports public radio and other public interest initiatives, is billing its latest initiative as “$100,000 in Prizes for Fresh Ideas on Democracy.” A closer look at the multimedia “Looking@Democracy” contest reveals that MacArthur is primarily interested in pushing left-wing ideology, soliciting ideas “to spark a national conversation about why government is important to our lives, or how individuals and communities can come together to strengthen American democracy.”

The contest description makes it clear that MacArthur and the Illinois Humanities Council, which is also involved, view the contentious environment in Washington, D.C. as a sign of weakened democracy rather than a sign that our system of checks and balances is reacting to the challenge of an ideological president determined to expand the horizons of executive power and the reach of government control.

MacArthur’s press release states:

“Given our perception that the political system has failed to adequately address major issues confronting the nation, MacArthur seeks to stimulate discussion about the future of the Republic and invests in promising ideas to help enhance democratic ideals, institutions, and practices,” said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci.  “This new public competition is all about engaging citizens and encouraging them to apply their creative talents and offer their ideas to strengthen American democracy.”

It might well be argued that “strengthening democracy” in today’s circumstances means limiting government power and strengthening the political opposition. Yet it is difficult to imagine that a proposal advocating limited government would pass muster. The competition calls for entrants to tell “a story about why government is important to our lives” or “how we might together strengthen American democracy.”

The MacArthur contest is the latest iteration of what has been referred to as the “Colorado model,” or the “progressive echo chamber”–the use of left-wing non-profit organizations and media organizations to shift debate by creating an impression that left-wing ideas about government are dominant and widely-held.

“Use your creativity to share your vision of how to make government work to improve our nation, our communities, and our lives,” the contest says. Somehow it seems not to have occurred to MacArthur that government might “work” better if it were less interested in “improving” our lives and more interested in living within its own financial and constitutional limits. There are, occasionally, prizes for that sort of thinking.