University's Plans for Milton Friedman Institute Spark Outcry
By Kari Lydersen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 28, 2008; Page A03
CHICAGO, Aug. 27 -- Plans by the University of Chicago to establish a research institute named after legendary free-market economist Milton Friedman have caused an uproar at the school on the city's South Side.
More than 100 tenured faculty members have signed letters and a petition opposing the institute, which would be paid for by private donations and would conduct research in economics, medicine, public policy and law. Critics say that they are concerned the institute will be a partisan, elitist organization and that it shouldn't be under the auspices of a university.
"There are a lot of aspects that look like a right-wing think tank. I'm very worried about that possibility," said Bruce Lincoln, a professor of the history of religions who helped draft the letters and petition. "People are concerned about the blurring of the line between Friedman's technical work in economics and his fairly well-known persona as a political advocate of a very pure, free-market conservative or neoliberal position, where the market is the solution to everything."
The institute was launched this summer with about half a million dollars in university seed money and is seeking $200 million in private donations of $1 million or more.
The opponents' petition voices concerns that wealthy donors would have inordinate influence over the institute's research. The petition also said that Friedman-esque positions, such as privatization of Social Security, would be foregone conclusions, and that the state and nongovernmental organizations would be regarded with "distinct suspicion."
University Provost Thomas Rosenbaum said such fears are unfounded.