By William Harms

The University of Chicago established the Milton Friedman Institute to honor the contributions of the famed Chicago scholar, considered by many to be the leading economist of the 20th century.

Economics at Chicago has special meaning, not only on campus, but around the world. For decades, the Chicago School has been renowned for its determination to seek new ideas, despite how controversial they may seem, and do so in a way that sets the standard for scientific inquiry in the field.

That tradition, made famous by many celebrated economists, will be strengthened as the University establishes the Milton Friedman Institute to honor the contributions of the famed Chicago scholar, considered by many to be the leading economist of the 20th century.

$200 million endowment

The Institute will be housed in buildings now occupied by the Chicago Theological Seminary, which the University is purchasing. There are no immediate plans to relocate the Seminary’s popular Coop Bookstore, although its owners have expressed an interest in exploring new options.

“The goal of the Institute is to build on the University’s existing leadership position and make the Milton Friedman Institute a primary intellectual destination for economics and business-related economics by creating a robust forum for engagement of our faculty and students with scholars and policymakers from around the world,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “The Milton Friedman Institute will continue Chicago’s extraordinary tradition of creating new ideas that stimulate the academic world and innovative approaches that influence policy.”

Faculty from the University’s Department of Economics will be joined by visiting scholars, who will conduct research in topics related to economics, business and law. Faculty from the Graduate School of Business and the Law School also will play an active role in the Institute.

Chicago tradition: Innovative research in economics

The Institute will continue a tradition of innovative research in economics, an approach that has led to numerous Nobel prizes in economics. Six Nobelists serve on the faculty and an additional 19 researchers and alumni associated with the University have also received the prize.

“The Institute will build on this important tradition by focusing on research questions that support development of economic models grounded in economic theory and empirical evidence and designed to evaluate a variety of questions related to economic policy,” said Nobelist Gary Becker, a member of the faculty committee that developed a recommendation for the Institute. Becker is Professor in Economics and Sociology and the Graduate School of Business.

“We see the Friedman Institute as a means to encourage interaction across some of the best and most exciting areas of research in economics and related disciplines,” said Lars Hansen, chairman of the faculty committee and the Homer J. Livingston Distinguished Service Professor in Economics. “It will give us a way to continue to learn about the best new research in a variety of areas and to seek cross-fertilization among important subfields of economics.”

Originally published on May 19, 2008.