“Friedman Friday” Milton Friedman’s biography (Part 2)(Interview by Charlie Rose of Milton Friedman part 3)

Biography Part 2

In 1977, when I reached the age of 65, I retired from teaching at the University of Chicago. At the invitation of Glenn Campbell, Director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, I shifted my scholarly work to Hoover where I remain a Senior Research Fellow. We moved to San Francisco, purchasing an apartment in a high-rise apartment building in which we still reside. The transition of my scholarly activities from Chicago to California was greatly eased by the willingness of Gloria Valentine, my assistant at Chicago, to accompany us west. She remains my indispensable assistant.

Hoover has provided excellent facilities for scholarly work. It enabled me to remain productive and an active member of a lively scholarly community.

Initially we continued to spend spring and summer quarters at Capitaf, our second home in Vermont. However, we soon came to appreciate the inconvenience of maintaining homes a continent apart and began to look in California for a replacement for Capitaf. In 1979, we purchased a house on the ocean in Sea Ranch, a lovely community 110 miles north of San Francisco. In 1981, we disposed of Capitaf and began to spend about half the year at Sea Ranch at intervals of a week or so, spread throughout the year, rather than in one solid block. It proved a fine locale for scholarly work. The Internet plus an assistant at Hoover more than made up for the absence of a library near at hand.

After more than two wonderful decades at Sea Ranch, we sold our house to simplify our lives. We now have one home, our apartment in San Francisco.

To return to the 1970s, not long after we arrived in California, Bob Chitester persuaded us to join him in producing a major television program presenting my economic and social philosophy. The resulting effort, spread over three years, proved the most exciting adventure of our lives. The end result was Free to Choose, ten one-hour programs, each consisting of a half-hour documentary and a half-hour discussion. The first of the ten programs appeared on PBS (Public Broadcasting System) in January 1980. Since then, the series has been shown in many foreign countries.

When we agreed to undertake the project, little did Rose and I realize what was involved in producing a major TV series. As a first step, I gave a series of fifteen lectures over a period of nine months at a wide variety of locations. The lectures and question-and-answer sessions were all videotaped to provide the producers with a basis for planning the programs.

The filming began in March 1978 and continued for the next eight months at locations in the United States and around the world, including Hong Kong, Japan, India, Greece, Germany, and the United Kingdom – in the process generating more than six miles of video and audiotape.

Three months after the end of filming, we returned to London to view the documentaries that Michael Latham, our wonderful producer, and his associates had created from that tape and to dub the voice-overs. Another six months passed before we gathered again in Chicago where we filmed the discussion sessions – one of the most stressful weeks I have ever experienced.

One distinguishing feature of the series was that there was no written script. I talked extemporaneously from notes. When we returned to Capitaf from London with the transcripts of the final documentaries, we set to work to convert them to a book to appear simultaneously with the TV program. The book, Free to Choose (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980) was the bestseller nonfiction book of 1980 and continues to sell well. It has been translated into more than fourteen foreign languages.

As Rose wrote in our memoirs, “As we look back at the events chronicled in this chapter, it all seems like something of a fairy tale. Who would have dreamed that after retiring from teaching, Milton would be able to preach the doctrine of human freedom to many millions of people in countries around the globe through television, millions more through our book based on the television program, and countless others through videocassettes” (p. 503).

Monetary Trends in the United States and the United Kingdom, published in 1982, was the final major product of a collaboration with Anna J. Schwartz under the auspices of the National Bureau of Economic Research that lasted more than three decades. Money Mischief (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992) collects assorted pieces of monetary history, some of which I had published elsewhere, some of which appear first in this book.

I have continued to be active in public policy since 1977. I continued my tri-weekly column in Newsweek until it was terminated in 1983. Since then, I have published numerous op-eds in major newspapers. I served as an unofficial adviser to Ronald Reagan during his candidacy for the presidency in 1980, and as a member of the President’s Economic Policy Advisory Board during his presidency. In 1988, President Reagan awarded me the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in the same year I was awarded the National Medal of Science.

We have traveled extensively since 1977, including a trip through Eastern Europe in 1990, where we filmed a documentary on former Soviet satellites. The documentary was included in a shortened reissue of Free to Choose.

Perhaps the most notable foreign travel consisted of three trips to China: one in 1980 when I gave a series of lectures under the auspices of the Chinese government; one in 1988 when I attended a conference in Shanghai on Chinese economic development and had a fascinating session in Beijing with Zhao Ziyang, at the time, the General Secretary of the Communist Party, deposed a few months later for his unwillingness to approve the use of force on Tiananmen Square; and one in 1993 when I traveled with a group of Chinese friends from Hong Kong throughout the country. The three visits covered a period of revolutionary economic growth and development, the first stage of a shift from an authoritarian, centrally planned economy to a largely free market economy.

Ever since the 1950s, Rose and I have been interested in the promotion of parental choice in schooling through the use of vouchers. Finally, in 1996, when it became clear that our personal involvement would have to be limited, we established a foundation, The Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation devoted to promoting parental choice in schooling. We were fortunate in being able to persuade Gordon St. Angelo to serve as president. He has done an outstanding job. Progress toward our objective of universal vouchers has been distressingly slow, but there has been progress. The pace of progress shows every sign of speeding up, and our foundation has made a significant contribution to that progress.

In 1998, the University of Chicago Press published our memoirs, Milton and Rose D. Friedman, Two Lucky People.

Milton Friedman died on November 16, 2006.

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