Committee for Open Research on Economy & Society (CORES)
No academic unit ought be founded on an established orthodoxy, least of all
an orthodoxy that caters to the interests and vanity of its donors and patrons.


In May 2008 the University of Chicago announced the intent to establish the Milton Friedman Institute  with an initial financial commitment in the range of 200 million dollars. The guidelines for this institute were detailed in a faculty committee report. According to the report the committee had initially been charged by President Zimmer, in May 2007, “to consider the possibility of creating a major new institute at the University on economics and society.”

CORES Sponsored event:

Naomi Klein

Disaster Capitalism: Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys

Time: Oct 1, 7PM. Location: International House, Assembly Hall, 1414 East 59'th st.


The proposal to name an institute after Milton Friedman aroused objections from many faculty members across campus. Highly respected for his technical work in economics and a vigorous polemicist in popular media, Friedman consistently depicted the free market as the solution to all problems and saw government involvement as not only counterproductive, but an affront to human freedom. He was, however, happy to work with states that imposed the free market policies he favored—most famously Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile (see Klein, Grandin ). In the U.S., Friedman advocated for the abolition of social security, the privatization of education, and the legalization of drugs (see Krugman, and Rayack) , consistent with his libertarian views.

Our view is that naming such a major institute after Friedman is a symbolic endorsement of his views by the University. The guidelines of the Institute, as detailed in the report (excerpted here), appear to reinforce this view. They indicate a very narrow research scope even within the field of economics, not to speak of the complete disregard for other disciplines involve in the study of “economy and society,” such as sociology, anthropology, and political science. Typically centers of such magnitude at the University of Chicago are meant to foster interdisciplinary work among faculty of different departments and divisions. This hardly seemed the goal in this case.


Administration response to Sahlins' article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
CORES response to administration's letter.

Finally, many faculty were troubled by the special status of donors to this Institute in the form of a Milton Friedman Society for donors of over one million dollars who would have a strong ongoing connection to the institute and its faculty. This plan seemed to indicate a move towards the privatization of research at the University and the cultivation of a symbiosis of scholars whose theories produce profits and a set of donors who then reinvest in those theories.

A letter detailing these objections, and signed by over 100 faculty, was sent to President Zimmer and Provost Rosenbaum on June 6, 2008. After several exchanges it has been decided to convene a meeting of the full University Senate in the fall quarter to discuss this matter. Further details of the exchange between the administration and this group of faculty can be found here.  

Our faculty group has since constituted itself as the Committee for Open Research on Economy and Society (CORES). CORES initiated an online petition against the MFI, allowing for signatures from outside the University. The controversy has aroused intense interest in the mainstream media.

Petition in Opposition to the Milton Friedman Institute

Please sign even if you signed the original letter.
Students, Friends and Alumni can sign as well.

For one or more of the following reasons, we, the undersigned, oppose establishment of the Milton Friedman Institute (MFI) in the form that has been proposed. Continue...

To sign click here.

List of signatures

Administration response to Sahlins' article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
CORES response to administration's letter.

Henry C K Liu, Oped in The Asia Times, Sept. 5, 2008

Mark Weisbrot of the CEPR on Friedman's Legacy in Latin America.

Lindsay Waters, Executive Editor for the Humanities at Harvard University Press and member of Humanities Division Visiting Committee, letter to Dean Martha Roth:

A Milton Friedman Institute-what a step backwards for the U of Chicago!! I am so sorry to hear about this. I know it is not your fault, but could you please try to do anything you can to stop it. The reason -I believe-the U of C was such a hospitable place for Friedman and many other thinkers was that it never endorsed any ideology. The founding of this institute is the clear endorsement of one ideology. This is a terrible falling away from the great U of C tradition which let a hundred ideologies flourish because it endorsed none. The U of C will rue the day. Continue

Corriere de la Sera, Italy. The translation

Kari Lyderson, Washington Post, Aug. 27

Kurt Jacobsen `Milton Friedman gives Chicago a headache', The Guardian, Aug 26.

Economist W. Robert Needham: letter to President Zimmer.

Thomas Frank in The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 20, 2008.

Economist Paul Davidson responds to Provost's comment in Thomas Frank's WSJ piece.

Some quotes from the `non-ideological' institute report:

``Following Friedman's lead, the design and evaluation of economic policy requires analyses that respect the incentives of individuals and the essential role of markets in allocating goods and services. As Friedman and others continually demonstrated, design of public policy without regard to market alternatives has adverse social effects.''

``The intellectual focus of the institute would reflect the traditions of the Chicago School and typify some of Milton Friedman's most interesting academic work, including his seminal work on the permanent income theory of consumption, his critical analysis of monetary policy, and his advocacy for market alternatives to ill conceived policy initiatives.''

`That's going to be an important factor, for people to say `that's where I want to be, this is the center of the universe for economics... When you think about the big battle between socialism and free markets -- he led the charge on behalf of the University of Chicago,'' Snyder said. ``There are a lot of people who will give back because of his name and effort and legacy.''GSB Dean Snyder quoted Bloomberg news.

Original Documents:

Original report on the Milton Friedman Institute.

Original faculty letter to the administration protesting the MFI>
List of signatures

The Administration response.

President's summary of meeting with faculty held on June 17'th.

CORES Response to Zimmer

Opinions of individual letter writers:

Marshall Sahlins in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Aug 18.

Yali Amit - response to Cochrane

Clifford Ando: Letter to President Zimmer and Provost Rosenbaum.
Provost Rosenbaum's reply

Gabriel Robinson (Grad. Student in Divinity) - letter to President Zimmer.

Marshall Sahlins: On Diversity: Do We Need More Centers?

Responses from Document Authors:

Response of John Cochrane

Economists respond:

Response of James Galbraith to report.

Response of William Tabb

Media coverage of controversy:

Naomi Klein, The Guardian: June, 14.

Jodi S. Cohen, Chicago Tribune. June 18, 2008

Patricia Cohen, New York Times. July 12, 2008

Michael Lipkin, Chicago Maroon. July 16, 2008

The Economist, August 7'th 2008

Follow-up by Jodi S. Cohen,The Chicago Tribune, Aug 15.

Luiz Antonio Cintra: CartaCapital , Brazil, August 20th.

Thomas Frank , The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 20, 2008.

Kurt Jacobsen, `Milton Friedman gives Chicago a headache', The Guardian, Aug 26.

Kari Lyderson, Washington Post, Aug. 27

Hyde Park Herald coverage of decision to convene University Senate.

Corriere de la Sera, Italy. Aug. 29 The translation

Henry C K Liu, Oped in The Asia Times, Sept. 5, 2008

Background material:

Resources on the Chilean experience from online supplement to Naomi Klein's book the `Shock Doctrine'

Assassinated Chilean Economist Orlando Letelier on Chicago Boys and Chile

Greg Grandin in Counterpunch, . `Milton Friedman and the Economics of Empire';

Krugman on Friedman: New York Review of Books.

Alejandro Reuss, `Friedman's “Chilean Miracle': Dollars and Sense.

William Greider on Friedman: The Nation

James Galbraith, `The Collapse of Monetarism';

William Black, Reexamining the Law-and-Governance theory of Corporate Governance

William J. Barber, `Chicago con Chile', Journal of Economic Literature (1995).

Mark Weisbrot of the CEPR on Friedman's Legacy in Latin America.

Changing trends in economic analysis.

`No more laundry lists', Dani Rodrik, The Guradian, July 10.

'No cheers for globalization' Dani Rodrik, The Guardian, July 31.

`Dr. Doom', Stephen Mihm, on Prof. Roubini, NYT, Aug 15.