Lovers of liberty are today recognizing the birthday of intellectual powerhouse and Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, who was born 102 years ago in Brooklyn, New York to immigrant parents. Friedman, who died in 2006, was my intellectual hero.
As I have noted in previous blog posts, Friedman revolutionized the economic science while teaching it to the everyman. He is arguably the most influential economist of the 20th Century, perhaps (unfortunately) next to John Maynard Keynes. Friedman cut so many new paths it is difficult to sum up his contributions to economics and public policy in a book, let alone a blog post.
To give you an idea of how much the world has changed since the popularity of Friedman took off, consider this. In college during the mid-1980s I once asked a professor for a good book on market economics or libertarianism and the only book that came to his mind was “Conscience of a Conservative” [emphasis added] published in 1960 by Senator and presidential nominee Barry Goldwater.
My point here is that before Friedman there were very few options available to the earnest student of limited-government. Today, one could fill a library or two with market-oriented and libertarian books and Friedman’s lifetime of efforts helped make that possible.
His book Free to Choose: A Personal Statement was the most popular non-fiction book of 1980 and its wildly popular video series on PBS was viewed by 3 million Americans, despite the attempts of many leftists to keep it from being aired and viewed. The affable professor was respected — even liked — by people who often disagreed with him, including fellow professors and Nobel laureates.
Friedman was an alternative to Keynes in a world that needed fresh ideas and he delivered: monetarism, price theory, “consumption analysis” to name some academic subjects he influenced as well as public policies of enormous import such the all-volunteer military force and school voucher programs.
Today, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, founded by Milton and Rose, is a leading contributor to the school choice debate nationwide.
Milton Friedman should be remembered today as an intellectual giant whose ideas about limited government continue to resonate around the globe.
A classic clip of Friedman: