T Nation

Milton Friedman, RIP

A great man passed today, one who made the world a substantially better place than it was when he found it. RIP.

1912 - Born in New York.

1932-1933 - Receives bachelors degree from Rutgers University, masters degree from the University of Chicago.

1937 - Becomes a member of the research staff of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a post he would maintain until 1981.

1945 - With coauthor Simon Kuznets, publishes “Income From Independent Professional Practice,” his doctoral thesis.

1946 - Receives doctorate from Columbia University and is hired to teach at the University of Chicago, where he serves as a professor of economics until 1976. Friedman would come to be seen as the leader of the Chicago School of monetary economics, which stresses the importance of the money supply as an instrument of policy and a determinant of the business cycle.

1951 - Wins the John Bates Clark Medal, which honors top economists under the age of 40.

1956 - “Studies in the Quantity Theory of Money” is published. In it, Friedman argues that increased monetary growth over the long run raises prices but has no effect on output. In the short term, increased money supply boost hiring and output.

1957 - “A Theory of Consumption Function” is published. Considered a landmark study, it tackles the notion, associated with John Maynard Keynes, that consumers adjust their spending to reflect current income, arguing instead that people’s annual consumption is a function of what they expect to earn over the course of their lifetime.

1962 - “Capitalism and Freedom” is published. Friedman’s key text on free markets, it argues in favor of floating currency exchange rates, an all-volunteer military, a negative income tax and education vouchers.

1963 - “A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960”, co-authored with Anna J. Schwartz, is published. In a work that would become hugely influential in the field of monetary economics, Friedman and Schwartz used historical narrative and reams of supporting data to argue that steady control of the money supply is crucial in steering the economy. The book famously critiqued the Federal Reserve’s performance during the Great Depression and the central bank launched a lengthy internal review of its policy-making after receiving a prepublication draft of the book. The Fed commissioned Elmus R. Wicker to write a rejoinder in hopes of deflecting some of Friedman’s arguments.

1964 - Serves informally as an economic adviser to Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Later, Friedman served as an economic adviser to Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, and to Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign.

1967 - Serves as president of the American Economic Association.

1975 - Friedman makes a controversial trip to Chile, along with several other University of Chicago professors, where he meets with dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

1976 -Is awarded the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in economics for his work in the fields of “consumption analysis, monetary theory and history and for his demonstration of the complexitity of stabilization policy.”

1977 - Becomes a senior research fellow at the libertarian Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

1980 - PBS airs the 10-part “Free to Choose,” which is made into a bestselling book co-authored with his wife, Rose Friedman. The series and book were a robust defense of the couple’s free-market economic beliefs.

1981 - Serves as a member of Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board.

1988 - Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom and National Medal of Science.

2002 - President Bush speaks at a ceremony honoring Friedman, celebrating his 90th birthday and recognizing his contributions to the study of economics.

Nov. 16, 2006 - Friedman dies of heart failure at a hospital near his home in San Francisco. He was 94.

A brilliant man has left us. If only the world had listened.

Capitalism is poorly understood, and he did more to explain it and justify it than almost any other man. God bless him.

Some nice tributes:

http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2006/11/when_i_think_of.html#more

http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2006_11_12-2006_11_18.shtml#1163702472

http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=OTI1MWFiZWEwNjY3MTg2MTdhZjE0MDYzYTEzMTQxMzc=

http://www.cato.org/friedman/

http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2006/11/milton_friedman_4.html

http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2006/11/milton-friedman.html

One more, from Gary Becker: http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/archives/2006/11/on_milton_fried.html

http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2006/11/milton_friedman_1.html

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
A brilliant man has left us. If only the world had listened.[/quote]

Some loss, indeed. Hopefully, another Friedman is in the making, somewhere.

The world does listen … a couple of generations later.

I hope Milton Friedman gets dug up by a couple of homosexual necrophiliacs (neoconservatives of course) and gets pounded in the ass. What a moron. His neocapitalist ideas have bombed in every nation thats adopted them - Brazil, Chili, Philippines, etc… And the nations that have completely rejected them are economic powerhouses - China, South Korea, India, etc…

And you’ve kept good company…especially with Augusta Pinochet - a mass fucking murderer!

[quote]jason1122 wrote:
I hope Milton Friedman gets dug up by a couple of homosexual necrophiliacs (neoconservatives of course) and gets pounded in the ass. What a moron. His neocapitalist ideas have bombed in every nation thats adopted them - Brazil, Chili, Philippines, etc… And the nations that have completely rejected them are economic powerhouses - China, South Korea, India, etc…

And you’ve kept good company…especially with Augusta Pinochet - a mass fucking murderer! [/quote]

Yes thats what describes this man and his legacy best:

A moron…

An argument put forward so eloquently by an intellectual powerhouse as yourself Sir, how could I not agree…

[quote]orion wrote:
jason1122 wrote:
I hope Milton Friedman gets dug up by a couple of homosexual necrophiliacs (neoconservatives of course) and gets pounded in the ass. What a moron. His neocapitalist ideas have bombed in every nation thats adopted them - Brazil, Chili, Philippines, etc… And the nations that have completely rejected them are economic powerhouses - China, South Korea, India, etc…

And you’ve kept good company…especially with Augusta Pinochet - a mass fucking murderer!

Yes thats what describes this man and his legacy best:

A moron…

An argument put forward so eloquently by an intellectual powerhouse as yourself Sir, how could I not agree…

[/quote]

Hey I’m sorry. Given that your picture is a little pink bag I’m assuming you’re a homosexual. Honestly, I have nothing against gays and I didn’t mean anything by my ‘homosexual’ comment above.

[quote]jason1122 wrote:
I hope Milton Friedman gets dug up by a couple of homosexual necrophiliacs (neoconservatives of course) and gets pounded in the ass. What a moron. His neocapitalist ideas have bombed in every nation thats adopted them - Brazil, Chili, Philippines, etc… And the nations that have completely rejected them are economic powerhouses - China, South Korea, India, etc…

And you’ve kept good company…especially with Augusta Pinochet - a mass fucking murderer! [/quote]

Theres a much less idiotic way to tell poeple you think someone dead is wrong jackass.

[quote]Beowolf wrote:
jason1122 wrote:
I hope Milton Friedman gets dug up by a couple of homosexual necrophiliacs (neoconservatives of course) and gets pounded in the ass. What a moron. His neocapitalist ideas have bombed in every nation thats adopted them - Brazil, Chili, Philippines, etc… And the nations that have completely rejected them are economic powerhouses - China, South Korea, India, etc…

And you’ve kept good company…especially with Augusta Pinochet - a mass fucking murderer!

Theres a much less idiotic way to tell poeple you think someone dead is wrong jackass.

[/quote]

Ohhh…I’m so sorry. Let me re-phrase that.

I hope Milton Friedman gets dug up by a couple of homosexual necrophiliacs (neoconservatives of course) and gets pounded in the BUTT.

There! Are you happy now!!! Is that politically correct for you…

[quote]jason1122 wrote:
orion wrote:
jason1122 wrote:
I hope Milton Friedman gets dug up by a couple of homosexual necrophiliacs (neoconservatives of course) and gets pounded in the ass. What a moron. His neocapitalist ideas have bombed in every nation thats adopted them - Brazil, Chili, Philippines, etc… And the nations that have completely rejected them are economic powerhouses - China, South Korea, India, etc…

And you’ve kept good company…especially with Augusta Pinochet - a mass fucking murderer!

Yes thats what describes this man and his legacy best:

A moron…

An argument put forward so eloquently by an intellectual powerhouse as yourself Sir, how could I not agree…

Hey I’m sorry. Given that your picture is a little pink bag I’m assuming you’re a homosexual. Honestly, I have nothing against gays and I didn’t mean anything by my ‘homosexual’ comment above. [/quote]

Try it by finishing the following sentence:

My main problem with Milton Friedmanns ideas, after having studied them intensely, is that…

[quote]jason1122 wrote:
I hope Milton Friedman gets dug up by a couple of homosexual necrophiliacs (neoconservatives of course) and gets pounded in the ass. What a moron. His neocapitalist ideas have bombed in every nation thats adopted them - Brazil, Chili, Philippines, etc… And the nations that have completely rejected them are economic powerhouses - China, South Korea, India, etc…

And you’ve kept good company…especially with Augusta Pinochet - a mass fucking murderer! [/quote]

You clearly don’t know what the fuck you are talking about; you’re a tactless asshole to boot.

Without wasting too much of my time, I suggest you research Milton Friedman’s connection to China and ask yourself why China is a burgeoning economic powerhouse. Here’s a hint: it ain’t because of communism.

For some different views on Friedman’s contribution.

htt://blog.zmag.org/node/2849

[quote]LBRTRN wrote:
jason1122 wrote:

You clearly don’t know what the fuck you are talking about; you’re a tactless asshole to boot.

Without wasting too much of my time, I suggest you research Milton Friedman’s connection to China and ask yourself why China is a burgeoning economic powerhouse. Here’s a hint: it ain’t because of communism. [/quote]

No you clearly don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about!

China’s economic success (where I fucking live by the way) has nothing to do with neo-conservative economic policies you dumbass! They’ve completely rejected them you idiot! Just because there economic success wasn’t because of ‘communism’ doesn’t mean it’s because they’ve adopted neo-conservative principals you moron! Take a fucking remedial economics class!

[quote]jason1122 wrote:
LBRTRN wrote:
jason1122 wrote:

You clearly don’t know what the fuck you are talking about; you’re a tactless asshole to boot.

Without wasting too much of my time, I suggest you research Milton Friedman’s connection to China and ask yourself why China is a burgeoning economic powerhouse. Here’s a hint: it ain’t because of communism.

No you clearly don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about!

China’s economic success (where I fucking live by the way) has nothing to do with neo-conservative economic policies you dumbass! They’ve completely rejected them you idiot! Just because there economic success wasn’t because of ‘communism’ doesn’t mean it’s because they’ve adopted neo-conservative principals you moron! Take a fucking remedial economics class![/quote]

You are right China proves once again that planned economies are superior…

It also completely disproves that economic freedoms go hand in hand with political freedoms which is why their former communist system is not slowly eroding…

They did “adapt neo-conservative principles” by getting out of the way in their special economic zones (f.E Shanghai), whatever they say at their equivalent of Sunday speeches is irrelevant after that fact…

[quote]jason1122 wrote:
LBRTRN wrote:
jason1122 wrote:

You clearly don’t know what the fuck you are talking about; you’re a tactless asshole to boot.

Without wasting too much of my time, I suggest you research Milton Friedman’s connection to China and ask yourself why China is a burgeoning economic powerhouse. Here’s a hint: it ain’t because of communism.

No you clearly don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about!

China’s economic success (where I fucking live by the way) has nothing to do with neo-conservative economic policies you dumbass! They’ve completely rejected them you idiot! Just because there economic success wasn’t because of ‘communism’ doesn’t mean it’s because they’ve adopted neo-conservative principals you moron! Take a fucking remedial economics class![/quote]

Lol. Sure buddy. Where you live means shit. During the 80’s (I think 1980 and '88) Milton Friedman made two trips to China. The first visit he gave a series of lectures on his “neo-conservative” economic policies–Friedman wasn’t a neo-conservative, by the way–guess who invited him?

Then, during the second trip, he met with Zhao Ziyang, who was, at the time, General Secretary of the Communist Party. Guess what they talked about?

Obviously Friedman isn’t solely responsible for China’s economic boom (Chinese economic reforms started before Friedman’s first visit); however, China’s economy is flourishing precisely because it has moved more towards a free economy–exactly the move Friedman advocated. They have hardly “completely rejected” Friedman’s economic philosophy–as you so absurdly claim.

P.S. Knock off the neo-conservative bit. Try actually making a point; you’re no better than the conservatives who like to shut down debate with the word “liberal.” Grow up…

[quote]orion wrote:
jason1122 wrote:
LBRTRN wrote:
jason1122 wrote:

You are right China proves once again that planned economies are superior…

It also completely disproves that economic freedoms go hand in hand with political freedoms which is why their former communist system is not slowly eroding…

They did “adapt neo-conservative principles” by getting out of the way in their special economic zones (f.E Shanghai), whatever they say at their equivalent of Sunday speeches is irrelevant after that fact…

[/quote]

Neo-conservative economic principals is basically heavy privatization of corporations, lower tax, and less interference from the government in the economy (which usually means the working people get screwed) - basically a republican’s dream. You could go into depth on this but basically this is it in a nutshell.

I live in Tianjin which is about 45 minutes away from TEDA which stands for Tianjin Economic Development Area. TEDA is an example of one of these special zones but Tianjin itself is not. China created these special areas to entice foreign businesses to come and set up shop in China. It gives them special incentives and makes the process a little easier for foreign companies to do business here.

Shanghai is not a special economic zone but it may have an area in Pudong set aside as one of these zones, I’m not sure. Qingdao, Dalian, and Ningbo each has one and I’m sure there’s more elsewhere but I don’t know exactly where.

As far as China adopting Neo-conservative principals I would have to argue that they haven’t. The government is involved in every aspect of the economy and in business - you can’t live and work here and not see it. Even in these so called ‘economic zones’ which is a very, very small part of their economy.

Irregardless of whether China actually owns the company or not (SOE - State Owned Enterprise) they are still heavily involved in every aspect of the economy. Obviously it’s working. South Korea is another good example where the government is very heavily involved in the economy. In fact the first thing you see when you go to Seoul is that almost every car on the street is a Korean made model. That’s because the government has put in place heavy protectionist measures in order to make sure it’s products are being bought by their own consumers.

This is a perfect example of a heavy handed government putting in place measures to efficiently manage it’s economy - a complete rejection of Neo-conservative principals which says that the “market knows best” and the government should keep their hands off the economy.

Take a look at Venezuela. Before Chavez took power their oil company Citgo was privatized. Meaning all the wealth generated from selling Venezuelans oil went to a few shareholders instead of the people - total neo-conservatism. Now that Chavez has taken power and has put the company back under state control the profits are directly helping Venezuelans.

And if you look at Venezuelans economy it’s actually starting to recover. You could pick any other country in Central and South America that’s adopted these neo-conservative principals and see the same horrible economic pattern.

[quote]LBRTRN wrote:
jason1122 wrote:
LBRTRN wrote:
jason1122 wrote:

Lol. Sure buddy. Where you live means shit. During the 80’s (I think 1980 and '88) Milton Friedman made two trips to China. The first visit he gave a series of lectures on his “neo-conservative” economic policies–Friedman wasn’t a neo-conservative, by the way–guess who invited him?

Then, during the second trip, he met with Zhao Ziyang, who was, at the time, General Secretary of the Communist Party. Guess what they talked about?

Obviously Friedman isn’t solely responsible for China’s economic boom (Chinese economic reforms started before Friedman’s first visit); however, China’s economy is flourishing precisely because it has moved more towards a free economy–exactly the move Friedman advocated. They have hardly “completely rejected” Friedman’s economic philosophy–as you so absurdly claim.

P.S. Knock off the neo-conservative bit. Try actually making a point; you’re no better than the conservatives who like to shut down debate with the word “liberal.” Grow up…[/quote]

Apparently Noam Chomsky, Michael Albert, and Economist Robin Hahnel think Friedman’s policies are neo-conservative. Actually I’ve never seen anyone ever try to even debate this fact - except for you - you fucking retard.

And gosh, since Milton Friedman visited China and gave a speech there he MUST be responsible for China’s economic success!! You fucking retard! Is that all you have after your 5 minute google search moron?

Like I said before - take a fucking remedial economics class before you post you idiot!

P.S. No I’m not going to “knock off the neo-conservative bit.” And yes, I AM liberal and I don’t give a fuck if you like it or not jackass!

[quote]LBRTRN wrote:
jason1122 wrote:
LBRTRN wrote:
jason1122 wrote:

Where you live means shit. [/quote]

Living in a country doesn’t mean shit?!?! It means you have to have an idea about how the economy works in order to do business here. Idiot.

[quote]jason1122 wrote:
I hope Milton Friedman gets dug up by a couple of homosexual necrophiliacs (neoconservatives of course) and gets pounded in the ass. What a moron. His neocapitalist ideas have bombed in every nation thats adopted them - Brazil, Chili, Philippines, etc… And the nations that have completely rejected them are economic powerhouses - China, South Korea, India, etc…

And you’ve kept good company…especially with Augusta Pinochet - a mass fucking murderer! [/quote]

Ah, nothing like elevated rhetoric from an obvious expert…

BTW, I don’t think “neocon” means what you think it means…

On the other hand, here is what Professor Gary Becker, one of Friedman’s doctoral students at the University of Chicago and an Nobel prize winner in his own right, had to say about the ideas of Nobel prize winner Professor Friedman:

http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/archives/2006/11/on_milton_fried.html

[i]On Milton Friedman’s Ideas–BECKER

Milton Friedman died this past week. He was the most influential economist of the 20th century when one combines his contributions to both economic science and to public policy. I knew him for many decades starting first when I was a graduate student at Chicago, and then as a colleague, mentor, and very close friend.

I will not dwell here on what a remarkable colleague he was. However, I do want to describe my first exposure to him as a teacher since he enormously changed my approach to economics, and to life itself. After my first class with him a half-century ago, I recognized that I was fortunate to have an extraordinary economist as a teacher. During that class he asked a question, and I shot up my hand and was called on to provide an answer. I still remember what he said, “That is no answer, for you are only restating the question in other words.” I sat down humiliated, but I knew he was right. I decided on my way home after a very stimulating class that despite all the economics I had studied at Princeton, and the two economics articles I was in the process of publishing, I had to relearn economics from the ground up. I sat at Friedman’s feet for the next six years-- three as an Assistant Professor at Chicago-- learning economics from a fresh perspective. It was the most exciting intellectual period of my life. Further reflections on Friedman as a teacher can be found in my essay on him in the collection edited by Edward Shils, Remembering the University of Chicago: Teachers, Scientists, and Scholars, 1991, University of Chicago Press.

In considering his many contributions to economics I will pass over his major innovations in scientific economics. These include his emphasis on permanent income in explaining aggregate consumption and savings, his study of the monetary history of the United States, his explanation of the stagflation of the 1970’s, his analysis of the value of a stable and predictable monetary framework to help stabilize the economy, his early contributions to the theory and measurement of human capital, his discussion of choice under uncertainty, and his famous essay on methodology in economics.

I will discuss instead several ideas in his remarkable book, Capitalism and Freedom, published in 1962, that contains almost all his well-known proposals on how to improve public policy in different fields. These proposals on based on just two fundamental principles. The first is that in the vast majority of situations, individuals know their own interests and what is good for them much better than government officials and intellectuals do. The second is that competition among providers of goods and services, including among producers of ideas and seekers of political office, is the most effective way to serve the interests of individuals and families, especially of the poorer members of society.

The famous education voucher system found in this book, and based on an article published in the 1950’s, embodies both principles: that parents generally know the interests of their children better than teachers unions and school boards do, and that competition among schools is the best way to serve the educational interests of children. He added the further insight that one can and should separate government financing of education from government running of schools. The voucher system retains government financing, but forces public schools to compete for funds against private for-profit and non-profit schools. The voucher proposal has I believe won the intellectual battle over the value of competition among schools at the k-12 school level as well as at the college level, but so far vouchers have won only limited political victories in terms of actual implementation. This is mainly due to the dedicated opposition of public school teachers unions who fear competition from private schools.

Both individual choice and competition are the foundation of Friedman’s 1962 radical proposal to privatize the social security system. He argued, correctly in my judgment, that the vast majority of families could be trusted to provide for their retirement if given appropriate incentives, and that they should be allowed to invest in retirement funds provided by competitive investment companies. The government-run social security systems then in effect in the United States and all other countries with retirement systems taxed earnings in ways that discouraged effort and encouraged underground activities. These tax receipts were then paid out to retirees according to politically determined criteria. Chile started the first private system of personal accounts modeled along the lines laid out in Capitalism and Freedom, and Chile has since been followed to some degree by many other countries, such as Mexico, Singapore, and Great Britain. The United States has its tax-free IRA’s and Sep savings accounts, but this country has not yet implemented privatization of its basic social security system, even though an enormous financial deficit on this system will occur in about 15 years unless the system is significantly reformed.

Friedman also proposed a flat income tax rate in Capitalism and Freedom, and showed that a rate of about 20% in the United States could raise the same revenue and in a much simpler and far less costly way than the quite progressive income tax system in effect in the early 1960’s. Further theoretical analysis of what is called optimal tax rates has generally concluded that a rather flat tax would be best at combining efficiency with redistribution of income to poorer families. The appeal to Friedman of the flat tax was based again on his confidence that individuals react to incentives, and that they take steps to further their interests. In this case, he argued that highly progressive taxes induce taxpayers to find and exploit tax loopholes, so that legally, and at times illegally, taxpayers cut their tax payments by hiding income or converting income into other forms. A flat income tax was early introduced by Hong Kong, and has in recent years been followed by many countries, including Russia and eight other Eastern European countries. The United States significantly flattened its income tax structure since the time Friedman wrote this book, especially as a result of the tax reform act of 1986. Unfortunately, a more progressive structure has crept back since that reform.

The voluntary army was not discussed in Capitalism and Freedom, but Friedman did propose to replace the military draft in several articles published about the same time as the book was published. He argued that a voluntary army would attract at reasonable cost a dedicated military force of men and women who volunteered due to a combination of patriotism and economic opportunities. A voluntary system is especially effective in situations where full-scale mobilization of available manpower is not required. His advocacy of the voluntary army induced President Nixon to put Friedman on a committee to consider whether the United States should replace its military draft by a fully voluntary armed force. Many persons on the committee initially opposed this idea, especially General William Westmoreland, head of military operations in Vietnam. Friedman’s persuasiveness eventually won over the vast majority of the members to this position, and in 1973 the United States changed to a voluntary armed force. Seeing how well this system has operated, very few military leaders now want to return to a draft.

Friedman proposed in Capitalism and Freedom, and earlier in an article in the 1950’s, to abolish the Bretton Woods System of fixed exchange rates, and move to fully flexible exchange rates. Under a flexible exchange system, rates are determined by the competitive supply and demand for different currencies by individuals and businesses. The prevailing view had been that such a system of flexible exchange rates would be unstable, so he argued at length why flexible exchange rates would be not constant but stable–unstable rates implied, he argued, that speculators on the average would lose money, which he did not believe was likely. This view of the behavior of speculators was challenged, but I believe Friedman was basically right. In any case, the issue was decisively settled after Nixon took the United States off the gold standard in 1972, and replaced it with a system of flexible rates in 1973. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange led by Leo Melamed then saw the opportunity to set up futures markets in currencies, which it did with Friedman’s help. These markets were enormously successful, and put to rest forever the belief that one could not have an effective system of flexible exchange rates. They provide an opportunity for businesses to hedge their currency risks by trading on currency futures.

The first chapter of Capitalism and Freedom considers the link between economic and political freedom. He argues there that economic freedom promotes political freedom, and that political freedom is not likely to persist without economic freedom. “The kind of economic organization that provides economic freedom directly, namely, competitive capitalism, also promotes political freedom because it separates economic power from political power and in this way enables the one to offset the other.” Findings since then suggest that while economic freedom can begin under totalitarian regimes, such as under General Pinochet in Chile and General Chiang Kai-Shek in Taiwan, economic freedom produces economic growth and other changes that usually eventually lead to much greater democracy, as in Taiwan, South Korea, and Chile. The important implication is that China would become more democratic if it continues on its path of greater economic freedom and greater growth.

On whether one can have democracy without economic freedom, Friedman said, “I know of no example in time or place of a society that has been marked by a large measure of political freedom, and that has not also used something comparable to a free market to organize the bulk of economic activity.” Sweden and other Scandinavian countries have been vibrant democracies, and yet governments in these countries tax away more than half the income. However, the majority of these taxes are transferred back to individuals in the form of retirement incomes, medical care, and in other ways. Although these countries mainly rely on private enterprise, not government enterprises, to organize their economies, is that “enough” freedom to qualify as economically free? That depends on the definition of economic freedom, yet I believe Friedman is right that thoroughgoing restrictions on economic freedom would turn out to be inconsistent with democracy.

To conclude on a more personal level, I was most impressed by Milton Friedman’s sterling character–he would never soften his views to curry favor–his perennial optimism, his loyalty to those he liked, his love of a good argument without any personal attacks on his opponents, and his courage in the face of prolonged and virulent attacks on him by others. I cannot count the number of times I participated with him in seminars, nor how many visits my wife and I shared with Milton and Rose, his wife of almost 70 years. Rose, a fine economist, would not hesitate to differ with her husband when she believed his arguments were wrong or too loose.

When I spoke on the phone with him last Monday, he sounded strong and a bit optimistic about his health, even though he had just returned from a one-week hospital stay with a severe illness, an illness that a few days later took his life. Although his ideas live on stronger than ever, it is hard to believe that he is not here. I can no longer seek his opinions on my papers, but I will continue to ask myself about any ideas I have: would my teacher and dear friend Milton Friedman believe they are any good?[/i]

Here is a review Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw wrote of the Friedmans’ memoirs back in 1998:

[i]The Economist of the Century
By N. Gregory Mankiw

Anyone who thinks that ideas matter (and who doesn’t?) naturally takes an interest in people who generate more than their share. Milton Friedman is one of them. As he approaches his 86th birthday, Friedman remains one of the world’s most influential living economists.

Fans of this great intellect are in for a treat: Friedman and his wife, Rose, have just published their memoirs, Two Lucky People (University of Chicago Press, $35). The Friedmans take turns telling their story as they trace their lives from humble childhoods in Rahway, N.J. (Milton), and Portland, Ore. (Rose), through a lifetime of teaching, research, and policy controversies.

The Friedmans are best known for their articulate and unwavering defense of the free market. Their policy objective is, simply, “the promotion of human freedom.” This goal, they tell us, “underlies our opposition to rent control and general wage and price controls, our support for educational choice, privatizing radio and television channels, an all-volunteer army, limitation of government spending, legalization of drugs, privatizing Social Security, free trade, and the deregulation of industry and private life to the fullest extent possible.” Milton and Rose were libertarians–aggressively vocal libertarians–before libertarians were cool.

Their campaign for a freer society led them into the confidence of some of the great political figures of our times, including Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher. The authors don’t shy from judging these leaders: we are told, for instance, that Reagan’s choice of George Bush as his Vice President was “the worst decision not only of his campaign but of his presidency.”

The Friedmans’ political involvement came with its share of controversy. Most notably, in 1975 Milton spent six days giving lectures on public policy in Chile and had one brief meeting with right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet. The result was a firestorm of protest. When Friedman won a Nobel Prize the next year, public objections came from all directions, including previous prize-winners David Baltimore and Linus Pauling.

Friedman was–and is–unrepentant. Of course, he did not endorse the dictatorship. But, he wrote, “I do not regard it evil for an economist to render technical economic advice to the Chilean government to help end the plague of inflation, any more than I would regard it as evil for a physician to give technical medical advice to the Chilean government to end a medical plague.” He also notes that years later, when he offered similar economic advice to China, there were no similar protests, even though the left-wing Chinese dictators were no less oppressive than Pinochet.

Friedman’s politics may have generated public controversy, but his scientific contributions yielded a consensus of admiration among his professional colleagues. When students today are taught about the determinants of consumer spending, the history of monetary policy, or the relationship between inflation and unemployment, they owe much to the intellectual legacy of Milton Friedman. Legend has it that economist George Stigler once called Friedman “the best economist in a bad century.” Stigler may well have been right that Friedman doesn’t quite measure up to the 18th century’s Adam Smith or the 19th century’s David Ricardo–economists, like many of the things that they study, are subject to the law of diminishing returns. But Friedman runs a good race against such 20th-century luminaries as Paul Samuelson and John Maynard Keynes, and that is no mean feat.

The book does drag at times, especially when it lingers over the minutiae of the Friedmans’ home life. (How much detail do we really need to know about Friedman family vacations, for example?) But overall, it’s charming. It’s almost like a letter from a couple of old friends–a couple of old friends who had a long, compelling intellectual journey, came to know some of the great world leaders of this century, and had 60 years of happy, supportive marriage. After reading Two Lucky People, you really can’t help but agree with the title.[/i]