November 16, 2006


Milton Friedman, a Leading Economist, Dies at 94 (Holcomb F. Nobel, 11/16/06, New York Times)

Milton Friedman, the grandmaster of conservative economic theory in the postwar era and a prime force in the movement of nations toward lesser government and greater reliance on free markets and individual responsibility, died today. He was 94 years old.

A spokesman for the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation confirmed his death.

Conservative and liberal colleagues alike viewed Mr. Friedman as one of the 20th century’s leading economic scholars, on a par with giants like John Maynard Keynes, Joseph A. Schumpeter and Paul Samuelson.

Flying the flag of economic conservatism, Mr. Friedman led the postwar challenge to the hallowed theories of Lord Keynes, the British economist who maintained that governments had a duty to help capitalistic economies through periods of recession and to prevent boom times from exploding into high inflation.

In Professor Friedman’s view, government had the opposite obligation: to keep its hands off the economy, to let the free market do its work. He was a spiritual heir to Adam Smith, the 18th-century founder of the science of economics and proponent of laissez-faire: that government governs best which governs least. [...]

As the end of the century approached, Professor Friedman said events had made his views seem only more valid than when he had first formed them. One event was the fall of socialism and Communism, which the economist Friedrich A. Hayek had predicted in 1944 in “Road to Serfdom.” In an introduction to the 50th-anniversary edition of the book, Professor Friedman wrote that it was now clear that “progress could be achieved only in an order in which government activity is limited primarily to establishing the framework with which individuals are free to pursue their own objectives.”

“The free market is the only mechanism that has ever been discovered for achieving participatory democracy,” he said.

Not only was Professor Friedman a genius, and a likeable genius at that, but one of his greatest assets was that readers never felt like they too had to be geniuses in order to understand him. All that was required was the kind of common sense that makes one note, for example, that the human traffic between the tyrannical Soviet bloc and the free world was basically all in one direction. Once a person grasps that, figuring out the implications is easy.

Posted by Matt Murphy at November 16, 2006 7:50 PM

In his honor, I will redouble my efforts to destroy America's decrepit public education trough, and replace it with Milton's.

Posted by: Bruno at November 16, 2006 8:55 PM


Here's a link to one of my favorite images: 2 Nobel Prize-winning economists, Friedman and George Stigler walking down University in Hyde Park. Iirc Friedman was something like 5'6" and Stigler 6'4"

My father was a doctoral student of Friedman's in the 60s, and so his figure loomed over our household.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at November 16, 2006 9:02 PM

God bless him and his family.

I love the wording - "conservative economic theory" ...

An idea is theory when first proposed but not as yet tested. Friedman's theories were demonstrated to be valid numerous times.

Also, how is a theory conservative (besides the Laws of Conservation, wiseguys)? A theory just is. And it is either borne out by reality or not.

They always gotta slip it in. No respect.

Posted by: Qiao Yang at November 16, 2006 9:47 PM

Reality-based economic theory is conservative because conservatism is the absence of ideology. Conservatives favor free enterprise as a means to higher ends. Free enterprise fanatics, such as Randians, those we call libertines are not conservatives.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 17, 2006 4:44 AM