Schnatter free market center not about conservative politics, Un - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Schnatter free market center not about conservative politics, University of Louisville officials say

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Papa John's International founder John Schnatter announces the Center for Free Enterprise. March 10, 2015 Papa John's International founder John Schnatter announces the Center for Free Enterprise. March 10, 2015
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Papa John's International founder John Schnatter will give the University of Louisville $4.64 million over the next seven years to establish the John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise within U of L's College of Business.

The gift from the family foundation established by Schnatter and his wife Annette will be supplemented with $1.66 million from the foundation of Charles Koch, the CEO of Koch Industries, Inc., one of the biggest private companies in the U.S.

Led by longtime U of L economist Stephan Gohmann, the center's mission will be to “engage in teaching and research that explores the role of free enterprise and entrepreneurship in advancing society.”

Schnatter, Gohmann and U of L President James Ramsey said the center's purpose is not to advance conservative political aims such as less government regulation – but to foster discussion about the role of free markets in the economy.

“I don't see anything political about this; I just don't. I think conservatives – liberals – you know, the main thing about this is you have a healthy debate,” Schnatter said in an interview following the announcement.

Gohmann said the term “free enterprise” means engaging in business with “minimal” interference from the government.

“When you have government intervention, often times you might have incentives to get the government to give you certain favors. And so, free enterprise allows people to just trade value for value,” said Gohmann, whose title is BB&T Professor of Free Enterprise. “It's not a conservative or liberal thing; it's just an examination of how markets work more effectively.”

Ramsey, an economist, said he believes free markets are the most efficient way to allocate the world's resources, but that belief is not absolute.  

“We know that markets sometimes break down and fail, and we need government intervention. This (center) will be a focus on those kinds of issues,” Ramsey said.

The center will have up to four professors, an outreach director and an administrative assistant. It will offer up to five research grants a year and bring in a notable speaker annually.

According to drafts of the agreements between U of L and the Koch and Schnatter foundations, the center's hiring decisions will be the university's alone, following normal U of L procedures. The donors also agree that “academic freedom” is “critical” to the center's mission.

U of L spokesman Mark Hebert shared excerpts of the agreements, but the documents themselves are not yet public records because they aren't signed, Hebert said.

The center will probably get started in the fall, said Gohmann said.

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