Serious Academic Debate

Only at the University of Chicago.

A while back, the university made plans to start a Milton Friedman Institute. It has been the source of some controversy.

The latest installment is reported in the student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon.

The beginning of the article is a little boring — but definitely read to the end, which is priceless.

INSERT DESCRIPTIONChris Salata, Chicago Maroon


Hecmna needs to learn to think before he speaks.

Is that so?

Kavan Wolfe

If you take seriously the work of people like Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine), it's hard not to conclude that Milton Friedman was not only wrong but also evil. He represents everything bad about economics: dogmatism, untested assumptions, basing policy on untested theories and helping powerful people take advantage of the helpless.


The only part I found interesting was this:

"The internal debate over the extent that committee members should yield to opposing arguments is notable because Institute opponents have expressed aggravation over what they see as advocates’ unrelentingly united front"

Exactly how do you debate the extent to which others should yield to your wishes?

The committee should choose the name they want and be done with it. I assume that choice will then be sent for ratification by faculty or trustees.

I don't care what they name an institute or building. Naming one after Friedman would be OK with me. Or not.

George Washington owned slaves and I don't worry about the name of our capitol city or the monument or of that state either.



I have news for you...economics IS a social science. It is a study of behavior, like sociology, anthropology, and psychology. Your ignorance implies that you do not actually know what is in the economist's toolbox. I assure you it is more than a screwdriver!

As for the Friedman debate, Hecmna needs to learn to think before he speaks.


The question is, why did the writer/editor bury that at the end of the article? Does the school newspaper not understand and operate under free-market capitalistic principles?

Michael G

Great timing. Naming an Institute after Freidman just as it becomes clear that monetarism is as bankrupt as Wall Street, and that the free market needs more regulation is rather ironic. It will stand as a monument ot its own irrelevance.


I found the following interesting...

From the Article linked by Levitt-

“I doubt there is a truly unbiased academic. Besides, most biased people don’t see themselves as biased. If you think the GSB is an unbiased environment, think again. They are recruited for their views. I wonder also how many free marketers would get jobs in anthropology or sociology,” he said.

-end article quotation

I'm in the social sciences. Free marketeering doesn't have much traction in the social sciences, and generally is not the first thing an anthropologist thinks about when documenting a language community. For sociologists and anthropologists... it is social forces, issues of community, communication systems, religious systems, etc., that drive the majority of theory.

The weird thing about economists... is that they are trying to answer psychological, sociological and anthropological questions with the same toolbox. That's like trying to build a house with only a screwdriver. : /

Kudos to Heckman though. Peeps in academia really should encourage a wide angle lens when evaluating options.


Michael F. Martin

I am shocked. SHOCKED. Academia isn't all about rigorous debate of serious theoretical claims?


Gotta love tenure -- you just don't get that level of honesty when someone's worried about getting fired for speaking truth to power.

Donald A. Coffin

Did Heckman really say "Screw off, John"? Or did he really say (and did the Maroon feel unable to publish), "F*ck off, John"?


It's a problem in government, business, and academic institutions: We want more of like-minded individuals, and less of the other.

But this serves to close minds, not open them. For there is not real marketplace of ideas, no thesis/anti-thesis (leftists should be ashamed).

We think we are protecting things, but what we are doing is setting ourselves up for irrelevance. Eventually, nobody takes you seriously, after all, to the world's eyes you are completely biased. You become something like the ACLU--an organiztion that is so baised to the left that only the left takes is seriously.

Is there any way to combat it? Sure, but it would be a killer.

Maybe we need a couple of organization to choose professors. One group is liberal the other is conservative...and each vets a group of professors for, say, a certain department...and the school must pick as many from one group as they pick from the other group.

That would perhaps ensure more balance and a hetter marketplace of ideas.

Until then, we'll have "liberal" universities and "conservative" ones, since if people can't find balance, they are then forced to pick a side.


non economist

Wouldn't a Milton Friedman institute be charted to study, publish and promote the ideas of its namesake?

It should be populated with those who will follow that charter. It should also be in public debate with other schools of economic thought.

Ben D

Haha! I bet it's even funnier if you know these guys personally.


So the man's speaking the truth, what's the big deal?

an economic idiot

Perhaps Hickman was suggesting an application of the Phillips Curve.


This could be funded by those in third world countries who took his advice: Starve the peasants working for them so they could fill their 3 car garages. They proved that you really could bring an American standard of living to the third world.


Egotism and academia go together like supply and demand.

Ellene Cain

The irony is that Milton Friedman became a BRAND and that is what is giving the opposition a good reason to reject the name --the very opposite effect that BRANDING is supposed to have in a free market economy. Priceless!!

Adam Hammond

The name is being changed. The provost ( Dr. Rosenbaum) emailed us Monday to let us know that the official name is: “The Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics”

A quote from that email is informative, "Several faculty members who spoke indicated that it was difficult for them or for others to separate the accomplishments of Milton Friedman as a scholar from the role he played as a public intellectual and commentator on and influencer of public policy. Many were quick to acknowledge the extraordinary accomplishments of Milton Friedman as one of the leading scholars of his generation, but they also felt that it would be preferable to clarify which aspect of his work the University is honoring given the breadth of his influence."