Milton Friedman remembered at 100 years from his birth (Part 1)

What a great man Milton Friedman was.

The Legacy of Milton Friedman
November 18, 2006
Alexander Tabarrok

Great economist by day and crusading public intellectual by night, Milton Friedman was my hero. Friedman’s contributions to economics are profound, the permanent income hypothesis, the resurrection of the quantity theory of money, and his magnum opus with Anna Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960, all stand as great achievements.

It’s true that in the pantheon of great twentieth century economists others hold their rightful place, Keynes was more revolutionary, Arrow more innovative and Samuelson more prolific but more than any other economist of the twentieth century Friedman was right. Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomena? Obvious now but in Friedman’s time this was a battle cry. It was a battle Friedman won. Central bankers today are punished for high inflation rates and as a result inflation has disappeared as an economic problem in advanced economies. Fine tuning of the economy? Friedman was skeptical and while short-term monetary and fiscal policy have not been abandoned there is a much greater appreciation today that these tools are limited and error-prone. Moreover, Friedman’s focus on monetary rules and monetary stability, echoed by Nobelist James Buchanan’s focus on fiscal rules and fiscal stability, are now seen as important foundations for long-run economic growth not to be sacrificed at a moment’s notice.

On the biggest question of all, free markets or a command economy Friedman was of course resoundingly correct. Obvious? Not to as great an economist as Paul Samuelson who in his textbook repeatedly predicted that the Soviet Union would outgrow the United States!

But Friedman did not restrict his genius to the academy or even to his field of monetary economics, he used economics to forcefully argue for a better world. Friedman was a key player in ending the draft, he used the power of the Nobel prize to champion unpopular causes like drug legalization. He not only wrote about floating exchange rates he helped to bring them into being. The end of welfare as we know it? Friedman’s negative income tax was an inspiration.

To those of us who admired Friedman, we mark his death not simply to praise his past accomplishments but because we have lost a leader. Even at 94, Friedman was sharp, active and crusading. In his last decade he devoted considerable efforts to promoting school choice. In this respect, I think Friedman’s influence has not peaked and on that day when every child in the United States has a voucher good at any school, anywhere, when schools compete for students, and a thriving and innovative market in education is born then too we will praise Milton Friedman.

Milton Friedman loved liberty. Even today, chills run down my spine whenever I read the slashing opening to Capitalism and Freedom:

President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country….” Neither half of that statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society.

Damn right.

On a personal note, Friedman inspired my book, Entrepreneurial Economics: Bright Ideas from the Dismal Science, in which I said Milton Friedman was the greatest entrepreneurial economist of the twentieth century. It was thus a real thrill for me and a bringing around of the circle when I sent him a draft and he wrote back praising the book (see the back cover!).

He will be missed.


Alexander Tabarrok
Send email

Alexander Tabarrok is Research Director for The Independent Institute, Assistant Editor of The Independent Review, and Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University. He received his Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University, and he has taught at the University of Virginia and Ball State University. Dr. Tabarrok is the editor of The Independent Institute books, Entrepreneurial Economics (Oxford University Press), The Voluntary City (with David Beito and Peter Gordon, University of Michigan Press), and Changing the Guard: Private Prisons and the Control of Crime.

Related posts:

“Friedman Friday” :“A Nobel Laureate on the American Economy” VTR: 5/31/77 Transcript and video clip (Part 4)

Milton Friedman on the American Economy (4 of 6)   Uploaded by donotswallow on Aug 9, 2009 THE OPEN MIND Host: Richard D. Heffner Guest: Milton Friedman Title: A Nobel Laureate on the American Economy VTR: 5/31/77 _____________________________________ Below is a transcipt from a portion of an interview that Milton Friedman gave on 5-31-77: Friedman: […]

Obama promotes food stamps but Milton Friedman had a better suggestion

Milton Friedman’s negative income tax explained by Friedman in 1968: We need to cut back on the Food Stamp program and not try to increase it. What really upsets me is that when the government gets involved in welfare there is a welfare trap created for those who become dependent on the program. Once they […]

“Friedman Friday” :“A Nobel Laureate on the American Economy” VTR: 5/31/77 Transcript and video clip (Part 3)

Milton Friedman on the American Economy (3 of 6) Uploaded by donotswallow on Aug 9, 2009 THE OPEN MIND Host: Richard D. Heffner Guest: Milton Friedman Title: A Nobel Laureate on the American Economy VTR: 5/31/77 _____________________________________ Below is a transcipt from a portion of an interview that Milton Friedman gave on 5-31-77: Friedman: Now […]

“The Power of the Market” episode of Free to Choose in 1990 by Milton Friedman (Part 5)

Milton Friedman The Power of the Market 5-5 How can we have personal freedom without economic freedom? That is why I don’t understand why socialists who value individual freedoms want to take away our economic freedoms.  I wanted to share this info below with you from Milton Friedman who has influenced me greatly over the […]

“The Power of the Market” episode of Free to Choose in 1990 by Milton Friedman (Part 4)

Milton Friedman The Power of the Market 4-5 How can we have personal freedom without economic freedom? That is why I don’t understand why socialists who value individual freedoms want to take away our economic freedoms.  I wanted to share this info below with you from Milton Friedman who has influenced me greatly over the […]

Obama’s solution to our healthcare problems: MORE FEDERAL OVERSIGHT!!!

A Taxing Distinction for ObamaCare Published on Jun 28, 2012 by catoinstitutevideo http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/it-now-falls-congress http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/taxing-decision http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/supreme-court-unlawfully-rewrites-obamacare-to… http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/congress-its-not-a-tax-scotus-yes-it-is/ The Cato Institute’s Roger Pilon, Ilya Shapiro, Michael F. Cannon, Michael D. Tanner and Trevor Burrus evaluate today’s ruling on ObamaCare at the Supreme Court. Video produced by Caleb O. Brown and Austin Bragg. ____________ When I think about […]

“Friedman Friday”:“A Nobel Laureate on the American Economy” VTR: 5/31/77 Transcript and video clip (Part 2)

Milton Friedman on the American Economy (2 of 6) Uploaded by donotswallow on Aug 9, 2009 THE OPEN MIND Host: Richard D. Heffner Guest: Milton Friedman Title: A Nobel Laureate on the American Economy VTR: 5/31/77 _____________________________________ Below is a transcipt from a portion of an interview that Milton Friedman gave on 5-31-77: Friedman: General […]

“The Power of the Market” episode of Free to Choose in 1990 by Milton Friedman (Part 3)

Milton Friedman The Power of the Market 3-5 How can we have personal freedom without economic freedom? That is why I don’t understand why socialists who value individual freedoms want to take away our economic freedoms.  I wanted to share this info below with you from Milton Friedman who has influenced me greatly over the […]

“The Power of the Market” episode of Free to Choose in 1990 by Milton Friedman (Part 2)

Milton Friedman The Power of the Market 2-5 How can we have personal freedom without economic freedom? That is why I don’t understand why socialists who value individual freedoms want to take away our economic freedoms.  I wanted to share this info below with you from Milton Friedman who has influenced me greatly over the […]

“Friedman Friday” :“A Nobel Laureate on the American Economy” VTR: 5/31/77 Transcript and video clip (Part 1)

Milton Friedman on the American Economy (1 of 6) Uploaded by donotswallow on Aug 9, 2009 THE OPEN MIND Host: Richard D. Heffner Guest: Milton Friedman Title: A Nobel Laureate on the American Economy VTR: 5/31/77 _____________________________________ Below is a transcipt from a portion of an interview that Milton Friedman gave on 5-31-77: THE OPEN […]

“The Power of the Market” episode of Free to Choose in 1990 by Milton Friedman (Part 1)

Milton Friedman The Power of the Market 1-5 How can we have personal freedom without economic freedom? That is why I don’t understand why socialists who value individual freedoms want to take away our economic freedoms.  I wanted to share this info below with you from Milton Friedman who has influenced me greatly over the […]

Milton Friedman’s best 10 quotes

Milton Friedman – Public Housing Uploaded by LibertyPen on May 6, 2011 Professor Friedman looks at the destination of another road paved with good intentions. _______________ 10 great quotes from Milton Friedman below: Nov 29, 2011 10 Of The Best Economics Quotes From Milton Friedman John Hawkins John Hawkins is a professional blogger who runs […]

Myth:Conservative Herbert Hoover responsible for Depression?

Myth:Conservative Herbert Hoover responsible for Depression When I grew up I always heard that the conservative Herbert Hoover was responsible for the depression. Is that true? The Hoover Myth Marches On Posted by David Boaz In the New York Times today,  columnist Joseph Nocera quotes a book published in 1940 on Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression: […]

“The Failure of Socialism” episode of Free to Choose in 1990 by Milton Friedman (Part 5)

Milton Friedman: Free To Choose – The Failure Of Socialism With Ronald Reagan (Full) Published on Mar 19, 2012 by NoNationalityNeeded Milton Friedman’s writings affected me greatly when I first discovered them and I wanted to share with you. Abstract: Ronald Reagan introduces this program, and traces a line from Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of […]

Case Study on Chelsea Clinton:Can equality of results be acheived best by punishing those who were born rich? “Friedman Friday”

Milton Friedman – Redistribution of Wealth Uploaded by LibertyPen on Feb 12, 2010 Milton Friedman clears up misconceptions about wealth redistribution, in general, and inheritance tax, in particular. http://www.LibertyPen.com _______________________________ Many times in the past our government has tried to even the playing field but the rich and poor will always be with us as […]

 

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: