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The Milton Friedman Institute and Ideological Intolerance in Academia:

The University of Chicago has decided to establish an economics research institute named after the late Milton Friedman. Normally, a university's decision to name an institute after it's most famous and successful professor would be a completely uncontroversial nonstory. However, over 100 University of Chicago professors have signed a letter protesting the decision. Essentially, they object to naming a research institute after Friedman because he was a libertarian rather than a liberal or leftist - even though Friedman's academic distinction is such that he clearly deserves the honor. It is inconceivable that you could find 100 academics at Chicago or any other major university who would sign a letter opposing the creation of an institute named after a liberal academic whose intellectual achievement's were as great as Friedman's.

The letter states that naming the center after Friedman would "reinforce among the public a perception that the university's faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity." This is a weak argument to say the least. No one assumes that universities endorse all the views of the people they name research centers or buildings after. For example, I teach at the George Mason University School of Law. That doesn't lead anyone to assume that I or the university as a whole endorse Mason's opposition to the Constitution or his other political views. Everyone understands that the university is named after Mason to honor his achievements, not to express agreement with his opinions. Universities - including Chicago - routinely name all sorts of facilities in honor of liberals or leftists without anyone even suggesting that this might lead people to think that the school lacks "ideological diversity." Even more to the point, the University of Chicago, like most universities, has entire departments overwhelmingly dominated by liberal or leftist ideological views. I doubt that many of the signers of the anti-Friedman letter are concerned about this, even though it leads to a real lack of ideological diversity as opposed to the mere "perception" thereof.

Some letter signers interviewed in the Chicago Tribune article linked above claim that the center will be a "right-wing" organization that, in the words of one, will cause "work at the university and the university's reputation [to] take a serious rightward turn to the detriment of all." There is no proof of this other than a sentence from the Institute's proposal which says that it will focus on the issues raised in "some of Milton Friedman's most interesting academic work." Obviously, focusing on the issues addressed in Friedman's work is not the same thing as automatically endorsing his conclusions. But even if the Institute does attract a disproportionate percentage of libertarian or (less likely) conservative scholars, so what? Plenty of academic departments and research centers are overwhelmingly left-wing. As long as the work produced by the Institute is of a high quality and is judged by objective standards, it should not matter if a disproportionate percentage of it is right of center. Since the Institute would be run by Chicago's world-class economics and business school faculty (including several Nobel Prize winner), it's highly likely that it will produce outstanding scholarship.

In my view, academia as a whole is in need of greater ideological diversity. But that doesn't mean that every single department or research center has to be internally diverse, merely that the academic world should be more diverse overall. Diversity across institutions is sometimes furthered by homogeneity within particular schools and departments. If the Milton Friedman Institute does end up producing primarily libertarian or conservative work, that would actually increase the overall diversity of the University of Chicago and the academic world as a whole, since both are overwhelmingly liberal (it's true that the Chicago Economics Department tends to be libertarian, but most of the university's other departments have ideological orientations similar to those of their counterparts at other schools - i.e., liberal ones).

In fairness to the University of Chicago, it should be noted that the 100 signers of the letter represent only 8% of the school's total full-time faculty. It's possible that some of the non-signing faculty sympathize with the signers' objectives. But the majority of the school's faculty - maybe even a majority of its liberal faculty - perhaps do not agree with the letter. By no means all liberal and leftist academics are ideologically intolerant. The majority, I think, are not. But there is obviously an intolerant minority that wields considerable influence.

NOTE: The article claims, incorrectly, that the University of Chicago Law School is "conservative." That isn't true, even if one defines "conservative" broadly to include libertarians. The University of Chicago Law School has historically had more libertarian professors than most other top law schools (and a few real conservatives as well). But it has always had a majority of liberal professors, at least since the New Deal. The fact that merely having a substantial minority of non-liberal scholars was enough to give the school a "conservative" reputation is itself an indication of the ideological imbalance in academia.

UPDATE: The text of the 100 scholars' letter is available here. All of their stated concerns focus on the Institute's supposed "neoliberal" ideology and the "harm" that that might supposedly do the University's reputation for "diversity." Read the letter and judge for yourself.

gattsuru (mail) (www):
That is not, in the slightest, surprising. It is, however, funny as all get out.
6.19.2008 11:57pm
JB:
I just graduated from a graduate program at UChicago. Nobody gives a sh*t. The faculty are significantly more liberal than the students (the graduation speaker this year gave a rambling, awful talk, devoid of all advice for future grads or any talk about the future, about how we should forgive Rudyard Kipling for being a racist), but they have failed to indoctrinate the student body.
6.20.2008 12:02am
TruePath (mail) (www):
I think you dismiss the stated explanation of the letter a little bit too quickly.

It's certainly true that in many academic contexts U of C is perceived as being fairly conservative. I think this is largely the result of the fame of their econ department which means people are far more likely to hear about conservative aspects of the university than more liberal ones. People don't form their impression on these matters based on going to the school and talking to people but by the few things they see in the news.

I mean suppose that UC Berkeley was thinking of naming a new building after some particularly famous liberal faculty member. Even though many UC students are conservative, the largest club on campus is an asian christian organization and most faculty are more interested in their research than politics the presence of the tree people and a very vocal very liberal contingent means the public perception of berkeley is just shy of a hippie commune. Thus I could certainly see a reasonable argument that a name choice like that could be bad for berkeley's academic reputation or chances of getting federal funding.

As far as chicago goes I think the worry isn't so much the public perception as the perception in other academic circles. I don't think it's totally absurd to worry that this choice of a name would play into exagerated stereotypes that other academics have of U of C and make faculty recruitment more difficult.

-----

This having been said I tend to think that U of C should go ahead with the choice of name. Not only do I worry about bad precedents being set and the tyranny of majority (in academia) political opinion but also it would be a huge handicap to chicago in raising alumni money to flip flop.

So I don't think the letter writers are corect and like all humans they are likely influenced by their personal prejudices but I'm not convinced the justification is flat out unreasonable.
6.20.2008 12:03am
Ilya Somin:
The faculty are significantly more liberal than the students (the graduation speaker this year gave a rambling, awful talk, devoid of all advice for future grads or any talk about the future, about how we should forgive Rudyard Kipling for being a racist), but they have failed to indoctrinate the student body.

Indoctrination is not the only danger caused by lack of academic diversity.
6.20.2008 12:04am
TruePath (mail) (www):
Ohh and another factor giving U of C a conservative image is the way they advertise their core curriculum and great books program. I think the great books idea is just as dumb as it's more liberal (reading works by/about the oppressed) counterparts but because the university makes such a fuss about it in their promotional literature it does give the impression that chicago is standing firm against those pernicious liberal influences.

Of course I think this is to some degree intentional. Chicago's promotional material isn't aimed at other academics but potential donors (and rich MBAs tend to be more conservative) and parents of prospective students.
6.20.2008 12:09am
Ilya Somin:
I don't think it's totally absurd to worry that this choice of a name would play into exagerated stereotypes that other academics have of U of C and make faculty recruitment more difficult.

Potential faculty almost certainly know a lot about the U of C and especially the specific department they would be joining. There is no evidence that the U of C has had any difficulty in recruiting left-wing faculty.
6.20.2008 12:18am
Ilya Somin:
Ohh and another factor giving U of C a conservative image is the way they advertise their core curriculum and great books program. I think the great books idea is just as dumb as it's more liberal (reading works by/about the oppressed) counterparts but because the university makes such a fuss about it in their promotional literature it does give the impression that chicago is standing firm against those pernicious liberal influences.

Since the "great books" include works by leftists like Marx and Rousseau, there is nothing particularly conservative (or libertarian) about them. At most, having a great books curriculum places Chicago in opposition to one particular strand of academic leftism. It certainly doesn't make the institution "conservative." Any potential donors, applicants, and faculty with more than a minimal knowledge of modern academia (or of the great books themselves) surely realize this.
6.20.2008 12:22am
theobromophile (www):
Maybe I'm reading too much into this (and maybe I shouldn't be reading Volokh late at night), but it almost seems as if the "intellectual" in "intellectual diversity" doesn't belong there. It cannot have escaped the notice of most of the Chicago faculty that their colleagues are mostly liberals (granted, not all liberals, like most bastions of higher education), leading me to believe that the concerns about "intellectual diversity" also encompass concerns about diversity. Conservative and libertarian groups are (stereotypically) bastions of white men.

Many of us are also perturbed that other units of the University that routinely engage the issues that the Friedman Institute is designed to address were not included in the planning, nor included in the ongoing core scholarly endeavors of the Institute.

I'm guessing that those "units" had names that ended with "Studies."
6.20.2008 12:30am
OrinKerr:
Is there a list of the 100? Maybe I just missed it, but I didn't see it.
6.20.2008 12:32am
ANDKEN (mail) (www):
But its true that University of Chicago has a poor reputation among leftists and general people. Here in Brazil is an easy ad hominem against Brazilian economists that graduated there. Yes, I think that these Brazilian economists arent good ones, but thats not because Chicago. ;-)
6.20.2008 12:32am
Ilya Somin:
Is there a list of the 100? Maybe I just missed it, but I didn't see it.

I haven't been able to find the list of signers, just the text of the letter. However, the Chicago Tribune says there were 101 signers, so they must have a list. If anyone here finds one, please post a link in the comments.
6.20.2008 12:39am
Peter T. Banos (mail) (www):
Oh. My. God. I spent a fair amount of time at the University of Chicago,(chemistry undergrad, MD, and MBA). I thought I knew the place.

One of many things I loved about the people (professors, students, almost everyone) there was the sense that you could disagree with anyone about any topic, and just about no one sought to cut others down simply because of difference in opinion. They did, however, care how well and skillfully that opinion was advanced. With time spent in the University of Chicago Intellectual Field, I, and generations of other students, developed the same attitudes about the relative importance of disagreement, compared to the importance of the skills used in the resolution of disagreement.

I still remember arguments I had with professor Ping-Ti Ho regarding the relevance of old tumbleweed seeds as a marker for the climate of ancient China. I remember arguments I had with one of my English professors about the meaning of "free will" in Milton's Paradise Lost. I disagreed with professors, other students, colleagues, and others, all the time, and still got "A"s, and felt warmly accepted at Chicago. I know many others who had the same experience.

And now? This idea that disagreement with a Nobel-Prize winning professor is grounds for the Professor's memory to be slighted AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO? What bizzaro world is this?

Through the red curtain of blood and tears that obscures my vision as I type this, I consider the fact that only 8% of the faculty signed the protest. On the one hand, 8% is far from a majority. On the other hand, the fact that 8% of the faculty signed the letter in question implies that the Chicago Intellectual Field — the Field of attitudes and beliefs that should be part of the very air in Hyde Park — might not be as strong as it needs to be. The University has failed the 8% of the faculty who clearly have no idea what the University of Chicago stands for.

In hopes of strengthening the Chicago Field from afar, here's a clue: The University of Chicago stands for this statement: "Crescat scientia; vita excolatur." In english, that's "Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched." It's not about "notoriety" or "negative image," which are concepts stressed by the faculty in the letter that express their concern over the proposed Milton Friedman Institute. The University of Chicago is emphatically NOT focused on concerns regarding "reinforce[ing] among the public a perception that the University's faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity," which concern is one of the stated motivators for creation of the faculty letter in question. The University of Chicago is based on the idea that knowledge should grow to enrich human life.

That's a simple statement, but it says a lot. Part of what it says is that many of the concerns explicitly stated, and perhaps some concerns that are implied, by the faculty letter in question, are not compatible with the University of Chicago.

What the University does in response to the faculty letter in question will, of course, say even more.
6.20.2008 12:44am
Michael B (mail):
Ideological religionists in academe; dog bites man and, in this case, merely nips at his heels. I can readily think of several topics where the dog in question - the ideological religionist who inhabits academe - doesn't simply nip, but sinks his teeth in and tears and gnashes and tears more still until mayhem or death results.
6.20.2008 12:54am
EPluribusMoney (mail):
There are WAY to many leftists in our universities and we really need to get serious about diversifying them, if not replacing 90% of them with conservatives.

Or how about some web sites to teach students what idiots their leftist professors are? Tell them what BS they need to regurgitate to get good grades but also tell them what the truth is.
6.20.2008 1:08am
Suzy (mail):
This sounds like a fabulous new opportunity for Chicago. Most of the objections sound like bunk, but the complainers have one good point: there should not be an obvious ideological bias in the founding mission statement of the institute. Departments may acquire an ideological bent over time, which is not always a bad thing, but when the ideological dominance is used to stifle other kinds of inquiry, it becomes a problem. This is such a common problem in academia, I don't know why they would want to write a particular ideological preference into the founding documents. Isn't any good researcher welcome there?
6.20.2008 1:22am
tvk:
Ilya, I think you are mixing some very good points with some rather mediocre ones. It is hard to seriously contend that a "Milton Friedman Institute" would not have a tendency to become a bastion of free-market libertarian-leaning thought. I have to imagine that is the precise point of setting up the institute.

The persuasive point is that the Milton Friedman Institute is likely to become a famous and leading bastion of conservative economics. One would imagine that if the institute was destined to become utterly unknown, these 100 faculty members would not be protesting.

The sum here is that some Chicago faculty would apparently prefer their university to be mediocre and liberal; rather than prestigious and conservative. It is not an irrational set of preferences, even if it is a very sad one.
6.20.2008 2:24am
Warmongering Lunatic:
"Intellectual Diversity" means "Marxist-Leninists, Stalinists, Trotskyites, New Dealers, and even the occasional New Democrat."
6.20.2008 5:53am
Smokey:
Milton Friedman was a towering intellectual genius [although he was only 5'2"].

It is virtually certain that none of the cowardly signers of the letter - who are still struggling to hide their identities - will be remembered a week after they retire, while Friedman will be widely referenced a century from now.
6.20.2008 6:11am
corneille1640 (mail):
As a technical matter, I disagree with Mr. Somin's assertion that naming an institute (or university, or anything else) after someone does not imply endorsement of that person's ideas. It does, at least to the extent that the namers are saying that the person's ideas were not so reprehensible as to proscribe such an honor.

Having said all that, I think U of C would be foolish not to name the institute after Friedman.

As another point, if the institute is bound to become a bastion of libertarian thought, it will probably become one regardless of the name.
6.20.2008 6:46am
FantasiaWHT:
Cloaking this complaint under the guise of advocating "diversity" is absolutely ludicrous. How can these people not recognize the vast hypocrisy of it?
6.20.2008 8:59am
jvarisco (mail) (www):
Head of the art department? These are the same idiots who tried to make UC divest from Darfur last year, and were utterly ignored by the administration. I'd be surprised if any number of people from real subjects signed it.

So far we've got: Japanese literature, music, history of religion, and a computer scientist. I don't see any social scientists there.
6.20.2008 9:24am
Seamus (mail):
Thus I could certainly see a reasonable argument that a name choice like that could be bad for berkeley's academic reputation or chances of getting federal funding.

This is a joke, right? I mean, the University of California at Berkeley could rename its Journalism School after I.F. Stone and its School of Social Welfare after Saul Alinsky,and if anyone in the government breathed a hint about cutting their funding, the firestorm of protest would be so great (and successful) that a triumphant Berkeley would probably take the next step and set up the Ernesto "Che" Guevara School of Medicine.
6.20.2008 9:37am
WHOI Jacket:
Wow, how "tolerant" of those 100 professors.......

How many of then are Nobel Laureates again?
6.20.2008 10:11am
David M (www):
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 06/20/2008 A short recon of what's out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.
6.20.2008 11:15am
Kazinski:
It wouldn't have been so bad if Friedman was just an academic conservative, the fact that his ideas have spread far and wide out into the real world and were overwhelmingly successful is unforgivable. The fact that Friedman helped put the nails in the coffin of communism forever disqualifies him from any honor or recognition in the liberal academy.
6.20.2008 12:13pm
ejo:
same thing would happen at any institution any of the posters here teach, just like the attempts to squelch speech would happen just the same. academics who claim otherwise are simply naive or they just don't care-after all, if you have tenure, who cares, right?
6.20.2008 12:31pm
BT:
It would be interesting to find out what departments the signers of the letter are from. My guess is that The School of Social Work, Divinity, and yes, the darlings of the Law School would lead the way. It would be particularly funny if someone from the Econ Dept. signed.
6.20.2008 12:59pm
Cornellian (mail):
Friedman certainly deserves to have a building named after him. He and the UC School brought a much needed empirical mindset to many policy issues that for too long had relied on intuition rather than measurement.
6.20.2008 1:17pm
tim maguire (mail):

naming the center after Friedman would "reinforce among the public a perception that the university's faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity."


This position makes sense only if they are agitating to give the center many names covering the full ideological spectrum. Or more to the point, they are enagaging in the all too typical liberal sport of trying to erase from history all that departs from the liberal canon.
6.20.2008 1:22pm
Conservative Activist Judge:
Robert Conquest's Second Law of Politics:

Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.

Naming the institute after Milton Friedman makes it explicity right-wing. Beyond losing the ability to populate the institute with leftist thinkers, the professors also recognize that it will probably become a leading institute and increase the number of libertarian and conservative professors on campus. These invaders will poison the atmosphere of the university and make professors in other departments think it's ok to be conservative in public.
6.20.2008 1:28pm
Spartee:
Meh. Academia is beyond help. Best to simply let it slide further into irrelevance and disrepute by giving it some more space to embarasss itself.

That said, it is important to cut off academia's access to non-hard science research funding. We need to end academia's ability to fund radicalism using taxpayer funds.

Also, We Who Disagree should routinely publicly badmouth--in very polite, temperate ways--social science and liberal arts academics as unproductive, daydreaming do-nothings, to reduce their social status. Treat them as impractical people whose opinions do not matter and contributions are not valued. We should also quietly question in public forums their credentials and academic accomplishments as being simply status-giving "log rolling" favors traded among less-abled people who cannot perform in other venues.

In sum, end their funding sources and destroy their status in society. The liberals who really want to stay for a life of ideas will remain in academia. (Where they belong. I am glad those ones are there.) But the larger pool of liberal academics who want a tenured, easy upper middle class life of status and prestige will leave for government, NGOs or (gasp!) private sector work.

Then we can get back to actually educating people via universities, which is increasingly not happening much these days, except by accident.
6.20.2008 1:31pm
ts (mail):
It seems that there is some intellectual dishonesty in the title of the Tribune article. The 101 faculty members who have signed the letter represent 8% of the full time faculty. That means 92% have not signed it. Ideally no academic with any integrity would sign it, but I can live with 92% not signing it as a pretty solid endorsement.
6.20.2008 1:36pm
Smokey:
Read Milton Friedman's obit from the Economist, then decide if the University is doing the right thing:


IN 1946 two American economists published a pamphlet attacking rent controls. "It was", recalled one of them many years later, "my first taste of public controversy." In the American Economic Review, no less, a critic dismissed "Roofs or Ceilings" as "a political tract". The same reviewer gave the pair a proper savaging in a newspaper: "Economists who sign their names to drivel of this sort do no service to the profession they represent."

The reminiscing author was Milton Friedman, who died on November 16th, aged 94. In the wake of the Great Depression and the second world war, with the Keynesian revolution still young, championing the free market was deeply unfashionable, even (or especially) among economists. Mr Friedman and kindred spirits—such as Friedrich von Hayek, author of "The Road to Serfdom"—were seen as cranks. Surely the horrors of the Depression had shown that markets were not to be trusted? The state, it was plain, should be master of the market; and, equipped with John Maynard Keynes's "General Theory", governments should spend and borrow to keep the economy topped up and unemployment at bay.

That economists and policymakers think differently now is to a great degree Mr Friedman's achievement. He was the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century (Keynes died in 1946), possibly of all of it. In 1998, in "Two Lucky People", the memoir he wrote with his wife, Rose, he could claim to be "in the mainstream of thought, not, as we were 50 years ago, a derided minority", and no one could dispute it.

Perhaps Mr Friedman became not only a great economist but also an influential one because he had a love of argument. As a boy he liked to make himself heard. He claimed to have had few memories of a school which he attended in Rahway, the New Jersey town his family had moved to when Brooklyn-born Milton was 13 months old, but he remembered getting a nickname. "I tended to talk very loud, indeed shout"; so when someone mentioned the proverb "Still water runs deep", he was dubbed "Shallow".

His classmates could scarcely have chosen a less apt moniker. Directly or indirectly, Mr Friedman brought about profound changes in the way his profession, politicians and the public thought of economic questions, in at least three enormously important and connected areas. In all of them his thinking was widely regarded at the outset as eccentric or worse.

The first of those areas is summed up by "Capitalism and Freedom", the title of a book published in 1962 (see our review). To Mr Friedman, the two were inextricably intertwined: without economic freedom—capitalism—there could be no political freedom. Governments, he argued, should do little more than enforce contracts, promote competition, "provide a monetary framework" (of which more below) and protect the "irresponsible, whether madman or child".

Freedom fighter

To show where Mr Friedman thought the limit of the state should lie, the book lists 14 activities, then undertaken by government in America, "that cannot...validly be justified" by the principles it lays out. These include price supports for farming; tariffs and import quotas; rent control; minimum wages; "detailed regulation of industries", including banks; forcing pensioners to buy annuities; military conscription in time of peace; national parks; and the ban on carrying mail for profit.

Although the state still does a lot of this, it does less than it did; and little if any goes unquestioned. For the abolition of the draft, in particular, Mr Friedman could claim some credit: a surprise, perhaps, to those who saw him as a right-wing ideologue. Conscription—"an army of slaves", as he put it to William Westmoreland, the army chief of staff—was illiberal: in peacetime, there was no justification for not hiring volunteers at a market wage.

Soon after becoming president, Richard Nixon set up a commission, on which Mr Friedman sat, to examine the argument for abolishing the draft. (Nixon had already been persuaded that it should go.) Conscription was ended in 1973, by which time the Vietnam war had anyway turned public opinion against it. Mr Friedman wrote, "No public-policy activity that I have ever engaged in has given me as much satisfaction as the All-Volunteer Commission."

Second, Mr Friedman revolutionised how economists and policymakers treated money and inflation. Until he showed otherwise, post-war governments seemed able to trade off unemployment and inflation: a long-term statistical link between the two, known as the Phillips curve after the New Zealander who noted it, appeared to prove as much. By loosening monetary policy, governments could apparently buy a reduction in unemployment at the price of a little more inflation.

This, said Mr Friedman, addressing the American Economic Association as its president in 1967, was an illusion. Pumping up demand pushed down unemployment only by fooling workers into thinking that wages had risen relative to prices, making them more willing to offer their labour. Once the truth dawned and they demanded more pay, unemployment would rise back to its "natural" rate. If governments tried to push unemployment below this rate, in the long run they would succeed only in pushing inflation ever higher. Edmund Phelps, winner of this year's Nobel Prize in economics, made a similar observation at around the same time.

Mr Friedman's work was embellished by others, who modelled firms' and workers' expectations in a more sophisticated way. What really counted, though, was that he had spotted a flaw in economic orthodoxy before it was made obvious by events. In the 1970s rich economies suffered rising inflation and higher, not lower, unemployment, despite governments' efforts to inflate their way out of trouble. Mr Friedman said this was futile: governments simply had to adopt a stable monetary framework. By this he meant setting a target for the growth of the money supply, a rule known as monetarism.

His diagnosis of monetary ills and prescriptions for monetary policy long predated that presidential address. In 1963, with Anna Schwartz, he published "A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960", a monumental labour. The book traced a causal relationship between the rate of monetary growth and the price level. Most eye-catching was its analysis of the Great Depression—or, as the authors called it, the Great Contraction.

The American economy shrank so much between 1929 and 1933, they argued, not because Wall Street crashed, because governments put up trade barriers or because under capitalism slumps are inevitable. No: trouble was turned into catastrophe by the Federal Reserve, which botched monetary policy, tightening when it should have loosened, thus depriving banks of liquidity when it should have been pumping money in.

Hence Mr Friedman's mistrust of independent central banks: "To paraphrase Clemenceau, money is too important to be left to the Central Bankers." He thought they should limit inflation by targeting the rate of growth of the money supply. Aiming for inflation directly, he thought, was a mistake, because central banks could control money more easily than prices.

Brilliant as his monetary diagnoses were, on the details of the remedy he came out on the wrong side. Controlling the money supply proved far harder in practice than in theory (notably in Britain in the 1980s: Mr Friedman grumbled that the British authorities were going about it in the wrong way). These days many central banks are not only independent of government but also have inflation targets—to which, by and large, they get pretty close. The Federal Reserve has even stopped publishing M3, a broad measure of the money supply. Writing in the Wall Street Journal when Alan Greenspan stood down as Fed chairman in January this year, Mr Friedman did admit that he had underestimated central bankers' abilities—or Mr Greenspan's, anyway.

Third, Mr Friedman laid the foundation of modern theories of consumption. Keynes had posited that as income rose, so would the proportion that was saved. Economic data bore this out only up to a point: though the rich had higher saving rates than the poor, aggregate saving rates did not rise as countries became richer.

Mr Friedman resolved this apparent paradox with a theory known as the permanent income hypothesis, set forth in 1957. People, he suggested, did not spend on the basis of what their income happened to be that year, but according to their "permanent income"—what they expected to have year in and year out. In a bad year, therefore, they might dip into their savings; when they had a windfall, they would not spend the lot. He called the hypothesis "embarrassingly obvious"; but in hindsight, many of the best ideas are. It was good enough, with his work on monetary analysis and stabilisation policy, to win him a Nobel Prize in 1976.

Spreading the word

Getting fellow economists to accept your ideas is one thing; transmitting them to the laity in plain English is another. He was a gifted communicator, like many prominent economists from Keynes to Paul Krugman. For 18 years he had a column in Newsweek. He and Mrs Friedman wrote a bestselling book, "Free to Choose", published in 1980, based on a television series of the same name. Mrs Friedman, whom he met when they were graduate students in Chicago, was a fine economist too and a sharp editor of her husband's work. She survives him after 68 years of marriage.

Politicians were keen to listen—most obviously Ronald Reagan. Although Mr Friedman met Margaret Thatcher and her government's policies bore a monetarist mark, she was probably influenced more directly by Hayek than by him. Mr Friedman was heartened by Reagan's willingness to support the Fed's tight monetary policy in the early 1980s and by his pro-market, small-government instincts, borne out in less regulation and the tax reform of 1986. He was disappointed by developments after Reagan left office. He would have preferred Donald Rumsfeld, not George Bush senior, as Reagan's vice-president and successor. An appraisal of the Rumsfeld presidency must be left to counterfactual historians.

His most controversial listener was neither Reagan nor Lady Thatcher, but Augusto Pinochet. The Chilean dictator combined ruthless repression with a taste for free markets and monetarism. In the latter, he was advised by the "Chicago boys", economists educated at the university where Mr Friedman was the leading light. He thought they had the economics right, but insisted that his own connection with Chile was much exaggerated by those who took him to task at demonstrations and in print. In 1975 he spent six days there, met General Pinochet once and wrote to him afterwards with his economic prescription—a conclusion, he believed, that the Chicago boys had already reached.

If Mr Friedman had a favourite economy, it was Hong Kong. Its astonishing economic success convinced him that although economic freedom was necessary for political freedom, the converse was not true: political liberty, though desirable, was not needed for economies to be free. Why, he asked, had Hong Kong thrived when Britain, which controlled it until 1997, was so statist by comparison? He greatly admired Sir John Cowperthwaite, the colony's financial secretary in the 1960s, "a Scotsman...a disciple of Adam Smith, his ancient countryman". And how much more, Mr Friedman wondered, might America have thrived had it kept its government as small, relative to its economy, as the island entrepot had done?

University of Chicago

That lament showed that Mr Friedman, brilliant and influential though he was, did not win all the fights he picked. Far from it. Education vouchers, which he and Mrs Friedman pushed for many years, have gained intellectual respectability but made limited headway in practice. Government spending, as a share of GDP, did not budge much even under Reagan and is much as it was when he left office. Only last month, Mr Friedman worried in the Wall Street Journal that greater state intervention in Hong Kong would mean that the place "would no longer be such a shining example of economic freedom."

Rent control, the subject of that "drivel" in 1946, is still being argued over, not least in New York City. Should you be curious about Mr Friedman's co-author, look at the photograph above. Towering next to Mr Friedman is George Stigler, the Nobel economics laureate in 1982: friends and colleagues, they stroll on the Chicago campus, no doubt discussing how to make the world a freer and happier place.
6.20.2008 1:43pm
Jeffersonian22 (mail):
As Thomas Sowell once remarked, "diversity" is nothing but a code word for intellectual conformity hiding behind superficial differences. I'd say this a fine example of that.
6.20.2008 1:48pm
glangston (mail):
The letter states that naming the center after Friedman would "reinforce among the public a perception that the university's faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity." This is a weak argument to say the least.



"Perception is reality"
6.20.2008 2:15pm
ronnie dobbs (mail):
In the spirit of compromise, and to more accurately reflect the ideological proportions of the UC faculty, I humbly suggest the following:

The Marx-Engels-Keynes-Krugman-Galbraith-Veblen-Friedman Economics Research Institute.
6.20.2008 2:28pm
swg:
I would bet that the professors who signed are professors not of economics, but of something else like sociology or gender studies.
6.20.2008 2:38pm
AntonK (mail):
swg says "I would bet that the professors who signed are professors not of economics, but of something else like sociology or gender studies."

Yes, let's get that list of signers out asap. You've got to shine a light on these rats to get them to scurry.
6.20.2008 2:50pm
Abandon:
I'm just curious, is there any Karl Marx Institute, let alone a John M. Keynes Institute in any major american university?
6.20.2008 2:56pm
Smokey:
...is there any Karl Marx Institute, let alone a John M. Keynes Institute in any major american university?
J.M. Keynes was British. Karl Marx was Prussian.

Milton Friedman was American. With a capital A.
6.20.2008 3:16pm
MJH21 (mail):
The faculty members are concerned it might "reinforce among the public a perception that the university's faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity."

Clearly the only way to do that is to exclude a point of view that they disagree with. I could not come up with a more perfectly Orwellian statement if I tried for a week.
6.20.2008 3:43pm
holdfast (mail):
""Intellectual Diversity" means "Marxist-Leninists, Stalinists, Trotskyites, New Dealers, and even the occasional New Democrat.""

I would disagree - look what they did to Larry Summers.
6.20.2008 4:00pm
Javert:

I'm just curious, is there any Karl Marx Institute, let alone a John M. Keynes Institute in any major american university?

For the former, see many Lit and Poli Sci Departments. For the latter, many Econ Departments.
6.20.2008 4:47pm
Nony (mail):
A friend of a friend is a pretty highly regarded professor in a liberal arts department there. She was presented with the petition, and told them that is was a bad idea. They put her name on it anyway.

Looks like they took a page from the IPCC.
6.20.2008 5:01pm
Seamus (mail):
I'm just curious, is there any Karl Marx Institute, let alone a John M. Keynes Institute in any major american university?

Maybe not, but as Michael C. Moynihan points out in a post on this issue over at Reason's Hit and Run, "When I was attending the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the administration decided to rename the school's 26-story brick library after the brilliant/deranged Stalinist W.E.B. Dubois."
6.20.2008 5:14pm
Boyd (mail):
"... the 100 signers of the letter represent only 8% of the school's total full-time faculty".

8% is well within the Elvis Factor - that 10% of people who believe if one mails a letter to Elvis he will get it. There is always that group who will believe even the most bizarre crap. Not anything out of the ordinary.
6.20.2008 7:18pm
p3731 (mail):
OK, Mr. Somin, what's the difference between "ideological intolerance" and "having an opinion and expressing it"? That's a cheap-shot rhetorical device you used there. I'd really like to see you back that one up.
6.20.2008 8:25pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Will the work of the Milton Friedman Institute be limited to ideas Friedman expressed during his lifetime? If not, then what does having his name on the door matter? One can work for, or receive grant money from, the Ford Foundation, without being associated with the publishing of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
6.20.2008 8:26pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Maybe not, but as Michael C. Moynihan points out in a post on this issue over at Reason's Hit and Run, "When I was attending the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the administration decided to rename the school's 26-story brick library after the brilliant/deranged Stalinist W.E.B. Dubois."
The library at Forbes (!) College at Princeton is the Norman Thomas library.
6.20.2008 9:39pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
To show where Mr Friedman thought the limit of the state should lie, the book lists 14 activities, then undertaken by government in America, "that cannot...validly be justified" by the principles it lays out. These include price supports for farming;

He was against price supports for criminals too. AKA the Drug War.
6.21.2008 4:59pm
Chester White (mail):

Religion professor, music professor...

Who gives a shit what they "think"? I mean, really?
6.22.2008 9:41am