Monday, August 1, 2011

University of Chicago Finally Overrules Friedman on Hayek

Well, well, it's confirmed: Milton Friedman is the one who blocked Freidrich Hayek from getting a position in the economics department at the University of Chicago.

Lew Rockwell reports:
How great to have had historian Ronald Hamowy as a distinguished visiting faculty member at Mises University last week. We did a fascinating and moving podcast about his teacher F.A. Hayek, and his close friends Murray Rothbard and Burt Blumert.

In his graduate seminar, reports David Gordn, Ronald confirmed that it was indeed Milton Friedman who blocked Hayek from the Chicago economics faculty. As a result of the Miltonian blackball, Hayek had to take an unpaid position at the university, and eventually returned to Austria. His American salary was paid by the heroic Volcker Fund, but there was no pension and certainly no tenure.
As the "heir" of Frank Knight, Friedman wielded a lot of power in the department, though he was not yet well known outside of it.

Hayek, though, has the last laugh on this one. Hayek's great work was too powerful for the University of Chicago to ignore. Milton Friedman may have attempted to block Hayek's affiliation with the economics department at the University, but he failed. The University of Chicago in its Gleacher Center to this day prominently displays the photos of Nobel Prize winners in Economics that taught at the University. Displayed, with those who taught in the economics department at U of C, is Hayek, no doubt to the eternal annoyance of Friedman.


  1. What is Hamowy's evidence?

    That is the key thing.

    Is there a paper record?

    There are many conflicting stories about this, and the underlying issue didn't seem to be Hayek so much as Pres.Hutchison, Adler's attempted Thomist takeover of the humanities & departmental autonomy.

  2. What is most telling in the evidence against Friedman is that Friedman falsely and repeatedly characterized Hayek's scientific explanation as "scholastic" -- directly tying Hayek to Adler's Thomism, with which Hayek's science had ZERO relation.

    Friedman had a deeply false / fake understanding of the nature of science, and he had NO understanding of Hayek's causal explanatory scientific strategy in economics, as is revealed in many Friedman letters and interviews.

    Friedman was an incompetent FAIL when it came to his knowledge and understanding of Hayek's economics.

  3. You know, it is funny when discussing econ with those that subscribe to the mainstream, and they find out that you're an Austrian, they inevitably bring up the fact that Mises couldn't get a faculty position and Hayek couldn't get into Chicago's econ department. I was always of the opinion that there were people in high places that made sure that Hayek and Mises couldn't get a job, now I know that I was correct.

  4. I don't think Greg Ransom is right about linking Hayek to Hutchins and Adler. Their attempt at a Thomist takeover was in the 1930s; after 1945, Hutchins was no longer president but had moved to the largely ceremonial post of Chancellor. Possibly, though, calling Hayek a scholastic would arouse bad memories of the previous conflict in the minds of some members of the economics department, such as Frank Knight.

  5. So this is the guy that George Selgin and others defend and rank as better than Rothbard, while claiming he was some sort of promoter of liberty? Wow.

    Friedman fans ought to be ashamed!

  6. This may create something of an approach/avoidance conflict for those libertarians that have been marketing Hayek, Friedman and Adam Smith as the totally reasonable and not even remotely radical or threatening face of libertarianism.

  7. The U. of Chicago lists Hutchins tenure as President at 1929-1951 ...

  8. I'm going on memory, but the facts as I remember them are that Hutchins was the one who excited about the prospect of outside money (the Volker Fund) paying Hayek's salary -- Hutchins was well known for looking for ways to get the funding to restore the status of the university.

    And it seems clear to me that the economics department was still at war with Hutchins on the topic of departmental independence & faculty autonomy & control, link intimately to the war over how to do social science and the humanities -- Hutchins was hostile to the scientism and sometimes dubious "empiricism" of the economics department.

    Hayek was used a kick toy in this fight.

    I wouldn't be surprise if Friedman voted against Hayek due to how Friedman lined up in this fight between Hitchens and the economics department.

  9. Hayek sought to use a Volker endowment to get a job at Princeton and the Institute for Advanced Studies but was told it would be very hard to find a department or institution which would accept the conditions of the offer.

  10. @Greg Ransom

    Do you know what the conditions were?

  11. Wentzel I don't know the conditions, but my understanding is that the Volker money didn't do throgh the standard U. of Chicago channel -- Hayek didn't gain or receive any pension through the U. of Chicago due to how his salary was paid.

    Philip Mirowski tells some of the story in his Mont Pelerin book -- but buyer beware, Mirowski has gone to the Marxist funny farm and is no longer a completely reliable historian, history is bent to tell a leftist conspiracy story.

    In other words, Philip Mirowski has become Oliver Stone.

  12. Sounds like a bunch of unsubstantiated rumors to me. I don't know why the Austrians enjoy picking on Friedman so much. You guys would do well to read David D. Friedman's defense of his father recently posted on his blog. Like it or not, we are fellow travelers.

  13. "So this is the guy that George Selgin and others defend and rank as better than Rothbard, while claiming he was some sort of promoter of liberty? Wow.

    Friedman fans ought to be ashamed!"

    Yes, Selgin totally said the reason Friedman's monetary economics are superior to Rothbard's is because Friedman blocked Hayek. That is not a strawman at all. At all.

  14. It speaks to Friedman's character and the motivations of those who support him while attacking Rothbard. It is very relevant.