Each July for the last ten years, the Mackinac Center has hosted Friedman Legacy Day to honor the accomplishments and theories of the late economist on (or near) his birthday.
July 30, 2016, saw the last Friedman Legacy Day, and we were thrilled to mark it by receiving a letter written by Milton Friedman himself.
In 1987, Ed Rogers, then the president of Dow Chemical in Japan, wrote a letter to Friedman about the trade imbalance between the United States and Japan. “The question is not whether it’s easy [to solve the trade imbalance] but whether it’s important,” Friedman wrote in his reply. “Trade imbalances are political problems, not economic problems.”
Friedman closed the letter by advising Rogers to “reinforce your own faith in free and open trade. It is the correct one.” Rogers and his wife, Elyse, continued to do just that, even more so a few years later when they began supporting the Mackinac Center.
The Rogers lived in Japan for the better part of a decade while Ed worked there for Dow, and say they loved it — the food was wonderful, the country safe and beautiful. They appreciated the traditional approach to society and that business wasn’t vilified. But Michigan was always home. “The worst part about Michigan is the winter,” said Ed. “And the best part about Michigan is also the winter, because otherwise, everyone would want to live here!”
During their time in Midland and Japan, they raised three daughters, all of whom have gone on to great accomplishments. The Rogers women have earned multiple scholarships, including a Fulbright and a historic full-ride to Indiana University for athletics. One followed in her father’s footsteps to a vice presidency at Dow, and another became the first foreign-born woman to be named to the board of a Japanese company. There are also three grandchildren in the mix.
Today, the Rogers are retired. Thanks in part to Elyse’s experience with the Dow Foundation, the family has started a small foundation of their own, supporting the causes they believe in, especially educational institutions. Elyse says her favorite part about the foundation is the way it brings the family together every year at Thanksgiving when they all discuss its future.
While the U.S. is home to the Rogers, they find fault with many of its policies. Ed laments the national government’s insistence on taxing all U.S. citizens, even those in other countries, causing damages and difficulties he dealt with when living abroad. He believes the country is blessed but making bad decisions.
Milton Friedman’s words continue to inspire the Rogers as they support the Mackinac Center. Ed says he wants “less government, but not no government,” and appreciates the Center’s willingness to mitigate state overreach.