As a liberal Democrat, I find it distressing that the faculty opposed to the Milton Friedman Institute would champion Naomi Klein to “lead the attack,” as it were. Having read The Shock Doctrine, I find it empirically shabby, poorly written, and a trite knee-jerk reaction to the intellectual depth of Milton Friedman. Setting aside his political views, there is no question that he, and the economics department as a whole, continue to make vast contributions to the field.
I too am distressed by the Friedman Institute, as I fear it would not bring divergent opinions to campus. My sister attends Stanford University and complains about the presence of the Hoover Institution, which she calls a “broken record,” bringing the same host of like-minded speakers that do little to enhance intellectual discourse. Likewise, I am concerned that a similar scenario would arise at Chicago.
However, the approach that the Committee for Open Research on Economy and Society (CORES) has taken to date is, frankly, childish, and insulting to liberal students who share a more nuanced—and realistic—view of the economy. Klein’s work, despite its ironic commercial success, is not rigorous scholarship. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a 2001 Nobel Laureate and a critic of neo-liberalism, noted in his review of The Shock Doctrine that she is “not an academic and cannot be judged as one,” adding that she “oversimplifies.” There are intelligent academic economists and other social scientists who could provide a reasoned dialogue about the presence of the Friedman Institute and Milton Friedman’s work. These are the voices that should be present in this discussion.
I, like many students and faculty, am opposed to what I view as an institution whose scholarship may be narrow in scope. However, the grumblings of professors whose expertise is outside the field of economics and who bring in speakers who do not enhance this debate may be more unfortunate than the presence of the Friedman Institute in and of itself.
Class of 2011
Maroon copy editor