The winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Economics, Friedman was one of the founders of the “Chicago School” of Economics, a group of then “radical” free marketeers and liberals who advocated market solutions to the most pressing economic and social problems of the day. A great departure from the prevailing Keynesian economic paradigm, Friedman’s theories and ideas for small government and greater personal freedom and responsibility have slowly clawed their way back into prominence among academics and policy makers – and the world is a far greater place because of it.
Truly a great humanist and advocate of human freedom through economic freedom, Friedman was a natural heir to the greatest thinker in economic and social philosophy, Adam Smith. He was seen as such a radical in proposing such capitalist and free-market ideas that he was put on the cover of TIME Magazine in 1969 (that summer of radicalism and free love) with the headline, “MAVERICK MESSIAH”.
He was known as the “economics” in “Reagonomics”, long working as an economic adviser to Ronald Reagan. Former British PM, Baroness Margaret Thatcher released a statement upon hearing of Friedman’s passing: “Milton Friedman revived the economics of liberty, when it had been all but forgotten. He was an intellectual freedom fighter”. Former Governor of the US Reserve Bank, Alan Greenspan, said: “My world will not be the same”. Austrian born Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger (himself an Economics graduand), said: “When I was first exposed to [Friedman’s] powerful writings about money, free markets and individual freedom, it was like getting hit by a thunderbolt. I wound up giving copies of his books and ‘Free to Choose’ videos to hundreds of my friends and acquaintances.” Gary Becker, 1992 Nobel Prize Winner, said: “He was the single most important force for setting out the argument for why free-market economists do better. Those ideas impact everybody.”
One of Friedman’s best quotes was when confronted by socialists and lefties: “Your objective is the same as mine – greater individual freedom”, he would say. “The difference is that I know how to achieve that objective and you do not.” It is easy to dismiss Friedman’s achievements as a reinforcement of the norm. However, when Friedman was proposing his ideas, it was in an environment of hostility, ignorance and socialist groupthink. Friedman not only broke the mold, but changed the world. His students themselves have won a staggering total of 12 Nobel Prizes.
Friedman’s ideas and leadership have improved the lives of EVERY PERSON on this planet and will continue to do so for years to come. He is a giant in world history and deserves to be treated as such. He will be sorely missed.
Friedman’s Nobel Presentation
POSTSCRIPT: Andrew Norton has an excellent personal obituary to “Uncle Milton” on his blog here.