“Funding Fathersis a celebration of the unheralded achievements of great donors. For instance, the names ofKansas Cityphilanthropist William Volker (1859–1947) and his nephew Harold Luhnow (1895–1978) are forgotten. In part, that’s because they put a time limit on the life of the grant-making Volker Fund they established. Unlike a Ford Foundation or Pew Charitable Trust, which exist in perpetuity to support causes contrary to the donors who created them, the Volker Fund honored its donors’ intentions during their lifetimes. During its three decades of existence the Volker Fund achieved far more than William Volker could have imagined.
In aKansas Cityarchive Hoplin and Robinson located a scrap of paper datedMay 7, 1945, on which William Volker authorized a $2,000 grant request by Friedrich Hayek to defray the travel expenses of 17 Americans to the first Mont Pelerin Society meeting inSwitzerland. It was during the high tide of Keynesianism (and one day before Nazi Germany’s surrender) that Volker made it possible for American free-market economists and writers to meet their counterparts in war-tornEurope.
The $2,000 grant helped pay for economists Milton Friedman, Frank Knight, Ludwig von Mises, and George Stigler, writers Felix Morley, John Davenport, and Henry Hazlitt, and institution-builders Leonard Read of the Foundation for Economic Education and F. A. Harper, who would found the Institute for Humane Studies, to confer with like-minded Europeans about the fate of the postwar world. Hoplin and Robinson’s diligent research also uncovers that Volker subsequently provided teaching stipends for Hayek, Mises, Morley, and economist Murray Rothbard and sponsored lectures by Milton Friedman that would become his bookCapitalism and Freedom. One wonders what grants might have a comparable impact today.
Funding Fathersis a timely book because it reminds conservatives that while elections come and go, good ideas prevail”.