Thursday, November 16, 2006
A life well lived
Milton Friedman was a giant of a man.
I first became aware of who he was in college, as my economics textbooks taught about his monetary policy views, which in the late 1970's were just beginning to win out over the generally accepted Keynesian view of monetary policy.
As a college junior, I transferred to study economics at University of Chicago, where Friedman taught and wrote. Although "Uncle Miltie" had just the year or so before left U of C for the Hoover Institution at Stanford, his shadow on the "Chicago School" was huge, as it remains today.
His list of truly world-changing ideas is phenomenal. There simply is no other economist who has had a more direct effect on the lives of Americans than Milton Friedman. His monetary theory was the intellectual basis for the Volcker Federal Reserve policies of the early 1980's that slew the inflation dragon and launched the U.S. on an unprecedented quarter century of growth.
He was the first to propose school choice. It was 1955 when he first wrote about how vouchers could improve a school system. In 1995 he started his foundation, which works to establish voucher and other school choice programs around the country. I have had the pleasure of working with his staff on various school choice issues.
In the 1980's he wrote the most popular book on economics ever written: "Free to Choose," in which he gave a layperson's intellectual argument for freedom. The book was the basis for a highly rated documentary that still is as fresh today as it was two decades ago.
This is only a small part of his list of professional accomplishments. On the personal side, I think he would tell you his biggest accomplishment is his 70 year love affair with his wife Rose, who is an accomplished economist in her own right. Rose Friedman grew up in Portland.
The world could use more people like Milton Friedman. Unfortunately, a talent like his is extremely rare. One of a kind.
Milton Friedman, a life well lived. We are all richer from it.