16 Nov 2006

Milton Friedman, 31 July 31 1912 – 16 November 2006

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Milton Friedman died today at the age of 94. There is an excellent obituary by Samuel Brittan in the Financial Times.

Milton Friedman played an exceptionally prominent role in the intellectual revolution which occurred in the later years of the last century, when the 19th century “Progressive” ideals of centralized economic planning, socialism, and collectivism were finally discredited.

It is almost impossible to imagine today the uniformity of leftwing opinion on politics and economics that prevailed in Europe and the United States right up until around 1980. Paul Samuelson’s orthodox Keynesian “neoclassicism” was the bible of Economics study at US universities. But, suddenly and unexpectedly, the consensus of professional economists was perceived virtually overnight to be both impotent and wrong.

No one played a more prominent role in articulating the case for the economic advantage of Freedom over Coercion, of spontaneous order over central planning, than Milton Friedman. In both the most rigorous learned academic publications and in popular books, Milton Friedman made an irrefutable case in favor of Freedom.

I remember when his 10-part television serious Free to Choose ran on PBS. It was in a time of national malaise, when recession and high unemployment was combined with double-digit inflation. Inflation had persisted for mre than a decade. From the conventional liberal point of view, the problem was intractable. In one of the episodes of Free to Choose, Milton Friedman walked through a government monetary printing plant. As he approached the gigantic press turning out US currency, Friedman reached out and hit the red emergency STOP button. The press’s operation instantly came to a halt. Milton Friedman twinkled at the camera, and announced: “I have just stopped Inflation.” And the viewing audience understood that he was perfectly right.

He died at age 94 covered with honors for a lifetime devoted to fighting for human liberty. There should be commissioned a painting after Girodet of the Spirit of Ayn Rand Welcoming Milton Friedman Into Valhalla.

Friedman Foundation announcement.

New York Times

Wikipedia entry

Ralph Kinney Bennett played tennis with Friedman.

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