Roger’s Rules

A footnote on Friedman

Yesterday, I wrote about the effort of some professors at the University of Chicago to prevent the naming of a new center in honor of Milton Friedman. Yes, that Milton Friedman, one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century, a man whose theories not only gave us deep insight into the workings of economics but also, through their practical application, improved the lives of countless millions.

But according to people like Bruce Lincoln, professor of divinity at the University of Chicago, Friedman’s free-market orientation is too “ideological”–i.e., too conservative–to merit honoring.

The repellent absurdity of Lincoln’s objection (for which he garnered the support of 100 other UC faculty) would be laughable if it were not so powerfully indicative of the deep sickness of our universities. James Piereson, writing at The New Criterion‘s weblog Armavirumque, touches on some features of the sickness. The first thing to note, of course, is the disparity between Friedman’s accomplishments and the Lilliputian gestures of Bruce Lincoln and his clique: “Is it,” Piereson asks, ” really possible to place this man’s accomplishments, such as they are, next to the imposing contributions that Milton Friedman made over a long lifetime to the discipline of economics?”

[T]he question here is not really whether or not the University of Chicago should have a center named for Milton Friedman, but whether or not it deserves to have one – whether the institution wishes to tie its future with the likes of Mr. Lincoln and his co-conspirators or whether it associates itself with the accomplishments and ideals so well represented in the life of Professor Friedman. It was much to its credit that the University of Chicago provided an academic home to Milton Friedman during those decades in which his views were out of favor. It would now disgrace itself if, after those views have won broad assent in the marketplace of ideas, it chose to reject his example under pressure from know-nothings like Professor Lincoln.

Moreover, as Piereson points out, if the issue is promoting a particular ideology, The University of Chicago, like virtually every other college and university in America, is “plainly awash in programs intended to advance left-wing ideology and political action.” Piereson cites several examples from such rebarbative intellectual slums as The Center for Gender Studies, whose own web site promises students “opportunities for political action and community involvement, for friendship, romance, and sexual experimentation.”

It costs nearly $13,000 per quarter for an undergraduate taking 3 or 4 courses to attend the University of Chicago. Isn’t that rather steep for “political action,” “community involvement,” “romance, and sexual experimentation”?