The Milton Friedman Institute

The University of Chicago’s plans to create the Milton Friedman Institute, with a $200 million endowment, has promoted protest from some faculty and commentary from supporters.  The protest letter to the university president and provost:

Many colleagues are distressed by the notoriety of the Chicago School of Economics, especially throughout much of the global south, where they have often to defend the University’s reputation in the face of its negative image. The effects of the neoliberal global order that has been put in place in recent decades, strongly buttressed by the Chicago School of Economics, have by no means been unequivocally positive. Many would argue that they have been negative for much of the world’s population, leading to the weakening of a number of struggling local economies in the service of globalized capital, and many would question the substitution of monetization for democratization under the banner of “market democracy.”

John Cochrane comments:

If you’re wondering “what’s their objection?”, “how does a MFI hurt them?” you now have the answer.  Translated, “when we go to fashionable lefty cocktail parties in Venezuela, it’s embarrassing to admit who signs our paychecks.” Interestingly, the hundred people who signed this didn’t have the guts even to say “we,” referring to some nebulous “they” as the subject of the sentence.  Let’s read this literally: “We don’t really mind at all if there’s a MFI on campus, but some of our other colleagues, who are too shy to sign this letter, find it all too embarrassing to admit where they work.” If this is the reason for organizing a big protest perhaps someone has too much time on their hands.

Daniel Davies weighs in:

Milton Friedman probably does deserve to have an institute named after him – he was one of the really big figures of 20th century economics, and even if he was much less of a principled libertarian thinker than his hagiographers like to pretend, it’s rather silly for the faculty of the University of Chicago to start acting like they’ve only just noticed that their university is famous for a particular school of economic thought that was founded by Milton Friedman. But I can’t help noticing that John Cochrane’s open letter[1] in response to the petition against founding a Milton Friedman Institute contains one of the canonical claims of Globollocks…

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