The Olin Foundation and Support for Law and Economics Research

The John M. Olin Foundation was founded in 1953 by John M. Olin, president of Olin Industries’ chemical and munitions manufacturing businesses. A grant-making foundation, its funds remained dormant until 1968 when Mr. Olin, at age 80, determined that he had to pour his resources into preservingthe free-market system. As a result, the most notable of its grants went to supporting and creating law and economics programs and professorships at law schools around the country.

The mission statement of the Foundation says, “The general purpose of the John M. Olin Foundation is to provide support for projects that reflect or are intended to strengthen the economic, political and cultural institutions upon which the American heritage of constitutional government and
private enterprise is based. The Foundation also seeks to promote a general understanding of these institutions by encouraging the thoughtful study of the connections between economics and political freedoms, and the cultural heritage that sustains them.”

Unlike most other grant-making foundations, the Olin Foundation was charged to disburse all of its funds within one generation of Olin’s death and did so by making its final grant in 2005, after bestowing more than $370 million.

In addition to funding the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics here at the University, the Foundation also provided support to, among others, Harvard, Yale, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Rochester, George Mason University, New York University, Princeton, Cornell, and Columbia. The Foundation also supported such prominent research institutions as the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Hoover Institution, the Hudson Institute, and the Brookings Institution.