Today in the WaPo we see that plans by the University of Chicago to establish a research institute named after the late Nobel prize-winning economist (and U. of Chicago alum) Milton Friedman has caused a bit of an outcry from the leftist professor crowd that typically congregates at exclusive and elite universities like U. of Chicago. That in itself is not a surprise, nor is it as absurd as statements made by some of the folks who helped draft and circulate a petition to block the establishment of said institute:
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. (irony not added!)
According to Bruce Lincoln, a professor of the history of religions:
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.
And this is a bad thing because…?
As we all are aware, the majority of US universities are replete with “institutes” and “centers” that are nothing if not “partisan” and “elitist.” Many of the universities themselves have been incestuous breeding grounds of leftist elites and their political dogmatism for years, to say the least. As a matter of fact its been documented (and here), analyzed, and fought against. But beyond all this, there is the inherent absurdity of rejecting the opportunity to have a privately-funded, high quality research institute named for a universally respected Nobel prize-winning alumnus simply because you disagree with his political beliefs. What ever happened to the alleged free exchange and debate of ideas on university campuses?
Maybe these folk are afraid of debating with ideas that refute their own for fear they may find themselves losing the debate. Or, maybe because these folks do not operate within a market-driven structure (the university tenure system) that requires tangible results, is why they reject that the market may actually be the answer to a great many things. The market does not magically make everyone a success, some people win and some lose, but at least they are free to choose how it happens.