Moore for Free


Michael Moore has been disinvited to speak at GMU. Sad.

Don Boudreaux notes Moore's dismissal smells politically motivated. I agree, even though Moore's invitation could equally well have been politically motivated.

However, I object to Moore speaking at GMU for a reason Don doesn't mention: Moore is not worth his $35,000 pricetag. I think that the university was overpaying for his services; until Conservatives objected, they were suckers at the bargaining table. And there is at least one person who agrees with me--Michael Moore:

Moore, in a telephone interview last night from his home in Flint, Mich., told The Washington Post he intends to speak at George Mason anyway. "I'm going to show up in support of free speech and free expression," he said.
You see, to get Michael Moore at a discount--in this case, a freebie--all you have to do is give him a day's worth of free advertising in the major papers.

A while back, Robert Fisk admitted to a packed GMU crowd that there was no massacre in Jenin; his potent exposure of the injustices of Israeli confiscation of land owned by Palestinians was worth the crowd's attention. If Moore were only half as intelligent as Fisk, it might well be worth it going to see him.


Does the argument in favor of paying Moore $35K (or not paying him at all) differ in any way from one that says that any person, speaking on any topic, should be invited to speak at GMU? If so, how?

To me, it makes a large difference if the funds are fungible between university programs. If not transferrable, then paying Moore might well be worthwhile--the $35K price resulting from monopoly supply intersecting imputed student demand. But if transferrable, $35K is enough to pay for how many graduate student stipends in the economics department? In my opinion, Moore isn't worth $35K, but he is worth $200.

Frankly, inviting a big name to speak is a rather conniving way to phrase the rental of oratory services. Do you pay guests "invited" to your home? The university is paying cash, not just "inviting." $35K is not just a nominal honorarium, but a major shift in resources.

I don't accept the equivalence between a simple invitation to speak (for free) and the payment of large sums. Of course, speakers that many want to hear will, like Moore and Bill Clinton, have the ability to charge large sums. But I can't accept using the rhetoric of "free speech" when all that is really at stake is highly paid "free speech".

I do think this is a separate argument from the rules behind who is permitted to speak at the university, regardless of payment. The U. could decide that all partisan speakers are forbidden three months before an election (with partisan determined by a pre-chosen Dean). This type of argument seems to be the pretext used by the Conservatives to bar Moore. I disagree with this interpretation because this rule, if it did exist, was not clearly stated or enforced before the payment--and the invitation--extended to Moore.


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This page contains a single entry by Kevin published on October 1, 2004 3:52 PM.

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