Happy 99th Birthday, Milton Friedman! A tribute to the late, great economist
If you know anything about this blog then you know that I quote Milton Friedman about as much as anybody. Growing up I was deeply affected by the book “Free to Choose” (also the film series) by Milton Friedman and the two film series by Francis Schaeffer (also his books).
The first political candidate I got excited about was Ronald Reagan in 1976 and Milton Friedman was the main economist that influenced him. Reagan also hired C. Everett Koop into his administration and Koop had co-authored the book and film series “Whatever happened to the human race?” with Francis Schaeffer. As you can see at the time I really felt that my political, economic and social views covered by the written views of these individuals.
Now all these individuals did not agree on everything. Concerning religious view, Friedman was an atheist, and Schaeffer was an evangelical and Reagan was somewhere in the middle.
There’s no way to appreciate fully the contributions of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman (1912-2006), who would have turned 99 years old this weekend, to the growth of libertarian ideas and a free society.
This is the man, after all, who introduced the concept of school vouchers, documented the role of government monopolies on money in creating inflation, provided the intellectual arguments that ended the military draft in America, co-founded the Mont Pelerin Society, and so much more. In popular books such as Capitalism and Freedom and Free to Choose, written with his wife and longtime collaborator Rose, he masterfully drew a through-line between economic freedom and political and cultural freedom.
Yet his ultimate contribution to freedom and liberty is found less in any of the specific argument he made and more in the ways he made them. Friedman provided an all-too-rare example of a public intellectual who was scrupulously honest, forthright, and fair in every debate he entered. Whether he was duking it out with fellow Nobel Prize winners and other high-profile economists or making the case for the morality of capitalism with TV hosts such as Phil Donahue and angry students, he always argued in good faith, admitted when he was wrong, and enlarged the circle of debate.
Long after some of his technical points and social insights have been superseded, that commitment to relentless inquiry and search for truth wherever it takes us will survive.
Written and narrated by Nick Gillespie. Produced and edited by Jim Epstein, with help from Jack Gillespie.
About 2.30 minutes.
For Reason’s coverage of and interviews with Milton Friedman over the years, go here now.