From Thomas Frank’s WSJ column last week, unrest at the University of Chicago over the soon-to-be unveiled Milton Friedman Institute:
We’re Not All Friedmanites Now
By Thomas Frank
Once upon a time there was a master narrative, and a neater little theory-of-everything you never did see. In its 19th century heyday it rationalized the having of the haves and commanded the deference of the have-nots; it spoke from the pulpit, the newspaper and the professor’s chair.
Its name was market, and to slight it in even the smallest way was to take your professional life into your hands. In 1895, the economist Edward Bemis found this out when he was dismissed from John D. Rockefeller’s University of Chicago thanks to his “attitude on public utility and labor questions,” as he put it in a letter to Upton Sinclair. Professors elsewhere paid the same price for intellectual independence.
But the orthodoxy lost its power of life and death. Academia developed protections for scholars who pursued unpopular ideas. Rockefeller’s University of Chicago went on to become the pre-eminent research university in the land, a temple of free inquiry and a magnet for Nobel prizes. I studied there and loved its atmosphere of endless debate.
What ought to alarm us, though, is the Milton Friedman Institute’s apparent plan to transform free-market orthodoxy into a bankable intellectual product. What is evidently going to reel in the dollars here is not research but ideology.