"Screw off, John"

Josh Wright —  21 October 2008

Emailed James Heckman in response to fellow the Milton Friedman Institute (MFI) committee member John Cochrane, who had warned Heckman about his publicly expressed views that he was open to considering changing the name of the MFI and that at least some of the now well-cataloged objections to the MFI were rooted in the view that U of C too hastily approved the MFI proposal (HT: Levitt). Here’s what Cochrane reportedly wrote to his colleague:

My strong, personal suggestion is that you are digging yourself deeper and deeper into public statements that you will regret. Now, not only is Friedman’s name expendable, the GSB political, but President [Robert] Zimmer ’rushed this through.’ He’ll be delighted to see that in print. You may have long, convoluted explanations, but that won’t do much good when this sort of thing gets out.

It is a sad statement how far afield this debate has gone from Friedman’s intellectual achievements as a research economist and in advancing economic thought. In my view, those contributions alone justify the MFI and it strikes me as fairly disingenuous to object to a social science research institute in his honor.  I don’t think opening discussions about re-naming the MFI helps matters.  If the opposition is fairly represented by their own letter (thoroughly rebutted here), they seem content to ignore any serious discussion of Friedman’s contributions to social science.