Not-So-New Applications in the Quantitative Analysis of Textual Information

From the Washingtonian article on the battle for control over Cato.

Meanwhile, in the 1990s, the Koch-funded Institute for Humane Studies, in Arlington—which offers seminars and scholarships for students interested in libertarianism—underwent a change in direction that one former employee described as “the Shadow falling on Rivendell.” “[Charles] Koch, evidently beginning to despair at the prospects of achieving political goals in his lifetime, became obsessed with a quick fix and decided that IHS needed to have ‘quantifiable results,’ ” onetime IHS professor Roderick T. Long wrote on his personal blog in 2008.

Long said IHS officials began feeding students’ application essays into a computer program that counted how many times the applicants mentioned libertarian heroes such as Ayn Rand or Milton Friedman—regardless of what they actually wrote. “Then the management began to do things like increasing the size of student seminars, packing them in, and giving the students a political questionnaire at the beginning of the week and another one at the end, to measure how much their political beliefs had shifted,” Long said.

[Cross-posted at Crooked Timber]

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Henry Farrell

Henry Farrell is an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.