Milton Friedman: 100th Anniversary of Economist’s Birth


July 31st marked the 100th anniversary of Milton Friedman, if he were alive.
Milton Friedmanwas America’s most prominent economist of the 20th century, and advocate of free markets – which included educational choice.
He was born in 1912 to Jewish immigrants in New York City, attended Rutgers University, earning a B.A. at the age of twenty. In 1933 he earned his M.A. at the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1946.
Friedman received the John Bates Clark Medal honoring economists under age forty for outstanding achievement. In 1976, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics, when such prizes were awarded for actually accomplishing something, for his achievements in the field of consumption analysis, monetary history and theory, and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy.

Before that time, Milton Friedman served as an adviser to President Richard Nixon and was president of the American Economic Association in 1967. After retiring from the University of Chicago in 1977, Friedman became a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Friedman established himself in 1945 with Income from Independent Professional Practice, coauthored with Simon Kuznets. In it he argued that state licensing procedures limited entry into the medical profession, thereby allowing doctors to charge higher fees than they would be able to do if competition were more open.
His 1957 work, A Theory of the Consumption Function, reputed the Keynesianview that individuals and households adjust their expenditures on consumption to reflect their current income. Friedman showed that people’s annual consumption is a function of their “permanent income”, a term he introduced as a measure of the average income people expect over a few years. (Economist Encyclopedia)
In his book, Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman wrote about the most important aspects of economics of the 1960s, which made a case for free markets. He also argued for a volunteer army, free-floating exchange rates, and education vouchers. Friedman was strongly against the military draft, which at that time had been restarted since World War II for the Vietnam War. This book encouraged many students to study economics. 
His ideas continued to spread when he coauthored and published a book entitled Free to Choose with his wife, Rose Friedman. It was a bestseller in 1980 and made Milton and Rose Friedman popular.
Milton Friedman’s work has done much to put away the Keynesian theories of economics that failed to work.
This last week several events were performed in honor of this great American economist who dispelled economic myths and provided a more down-to-earth explanation in several books so all could understand the importance of free market and monetary controls.
Kyle Olson wrote about just such an event with Condoleezza Rice as the key speaker:
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a compelling case for school choice Tuesday at The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice dinner honoring Milton Friedman’s 100th birthday. . . . Less known is the fact that Friedman was the father of the American school choice movement, advocating for school vouchers and the elimination of government school district boundaries as early as the 1960s. Rice, the keynote speaker at the birthday celebration, picked up Friedman’s call to liberate students from failing schools and allow them to use government education dollars to enroll in the public, private or parochial schools that best fit their needs. She echoed Friedman’s belief that school choice is most important for children from lower income families, who are frequently forced to attend failing schools in dangerous urban neighborhoods. She said poor kids should have the same access to quality schools as children from more affluent families. “School choice is indeed a matter of civil rights,” Rice told her audience. Rice shared the story of her grandfather finding a way to attend college in the segregated south, and how higher education has been a tradition in her family ever since. She described education as a liberating tool in a society where circumstances of birth should never block opportunities for advancement. “It doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters where you’re going,” Rice said. . . . Paying homage to Friedman’s principles, Rice said, “Never in the American narrative has it been, ‘I am doing poorly because you are doing well.’”
All the “Free to Choose” videos can be seen HERE.

The best testimony for Milton Friedman is from acclaimed economist, Thomas Sowell, who was his student at the University of Chicago. Read the full article, but here are some great quotes:
  • If Milton Friedman were alive today — and there was never a time when he was more needed — he would be one hundred years old. . . . Professor Friedman’s death at age 94 deprived the nation of one of those rare thinkers who had both genius and common sense.
  • Most people would not be able to understand the complex economic analysis that won him a Nobel Prize, but people with no knowledge of economics had no trouble understanding his popular books like “Free to Choose” or the TV series of the same name. In being able to express himself at both the highest level of his profession and also at a level that the average person could readily understand, Milton Friedman was like the economist whose theories and persona were most different from his own — John Maynard Keynes.
  • No one converted Milton Friedman, either in economics or in his views on social policy. His own research, analysis and experience converted him. As a professor, he did not attempt to convert students to his political views. I made no secret of the fact that I was a Marxist when I was a student in Professor Friedman’s course, but he made no effort to change my views. He once said that anybody who was easily converted was not worth converting. I was still a Marxist after taking Professor Friedman’s class. Working as an economist in the government converted me.
  • Milton Friedman proposed radical changes in policies and institution ranging from the public schools to the Federal Reserve. It is liberals who want to conserve and expand the welfare state.
  • As a student of Professor Friedman back in 1960, I was struck by two things — his tough grading standards and the fact that he had a black secretary. This was years before affirmative action. People on the left exhibit blacks as mascots. But I never heard Milton Friedman say that he had a black secretary, though she was with him for decades. Both his grading standards and his refusal to try to be politically correct increased my respect for him.
  • Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com.
“Freedom to Choose” was the message of Milton Friedman, and Freedom of Choice in several ways must be returned to We the People – and kept for generations to come as the Founders meant it to be.
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