Milton Friedman Institute Plans Spark Protests

Thursday, 28 Aug 2008 11:33 AM

By Jim Meyers

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Faculty members at the University of Chicago are protesting plans to establish a research institute named after free-market economist Milton Friedman at the school.

More than 100 tenured faculty members have signed letters and a petition opposing the institute, which would be paid for by private donations and conduct research in economics, public policy and other disciplines.

The institute was recently launched with about half a million dollars in university seed money and is seeking $200 million in private donations.

Critics say they are concerned the institute “will be a partisan, elitist organization and that it shouldn’t be under the auspices of a university,” The Washington Post reported.

Bruce Lincoln, a professor of the history of religious who helped draft the petition, told The Post: “There are a lot of aspects that look like a right-wing think tank. I’m very worried about that possibility.”

Friedman, a longtime professor at the university’s economics department, was awarded a Nobel Prize in economics in 1976 and died in 2006. He sought to minimize the role of government in favor of the private sector, and opposed such government endeavors as Social Security, minimum-wage laws and rent controls. His policies gained support during the administrations of Ronald Reagan in the U.S. and Margaret Thatcher in Britain.

University Provost Thomas Rosenbaum rejected concerns that donors could strongly influence the institute’s research, saying the donors “will have nothing to do with its direction.”

The issue will be taken up at a meeting of the faculty senate in the fall.

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