Monday, June 23, 2008

Milton Friedman Institute

Economic Principals reports on faculty opposition at Chicago to the planned Milton Friedman Institute. The fraction of the faculty at issue is small and will be easily over-ridden by the administration so there is little to worry about.

I thought two issues were noteworthy. First, the opposition protest seems to embody the view that universities should not specialize in particular worldviews. This seems to me rather obviously a bad idea. Particularly in the case of private universities, individuals are, one might say, free to choose what type of school they want to attend and, indeed, whether or not they want to work at a particular type of school. Surely a diversity of schools better serves a diverse student population (and less diverse faculty population) than does a long list of academic clones.

Second, EP remarks that he cannot imagine a Keynes Institute at Harvard. I found this puzzling. First, Harvard is not unwilling to name things after politically controversial characters. For example, its policy school is named after John F. Kennedy, hardly a neutral or non-partisan figure. Second, why is the comparison appropriate when Keynes was not involved with Harvard in the way in which Friedman was at Chicago? It is easy to imagine Harvard setting up a Galbraith center, which seems the more direct analog.

Finally, at least when I was at Chicago, the claim was that no one at the Chicago Theological Seminary actually believed in God. Thus, whatever is being relegated to the edge of campus when it moves, it is not religion. :)

Addendum: A modestly revised version of the original EP post now appears in EP's archive here.