Thursday, November 16, 2006

Milton Friedman dies.

Milton Friedman, the grand gentleman of libertarianism, died a short while ago as the result of an accident. Dr. Friedman was born July 31, 1912 and was 94 years of age. Dr. Friedman was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in economic sciences in 1976. But he was most widely known as a great popularizer of classical liberal ideas through his television series Free to Choose and the book which followed, which he co-authored with his wife Rose, who survives him.

Dr. Friedman was the son of Jewish immigrants from what is today the Ukraine. He was educated at Rutgers University and the University of Chicago, an institution that practically became synonymous with his name because of his 30 year teaching career there. He earned his Ph.D in 1946 from Columbia University.

Friedman, with Dr. Anna Schwartz, authored A Monetary History of the United States which argued that the Great Depression was the result of bungled policies by the American central bank. On the occasion of his 90th birthday a Fed official, and now Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke quipped to Friedman: “Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry.”

Dr. Friedman was not just an advocate of economic freedom. He was an advocate of freedom across the board. He was a vocal advocate of the legalization of drugs arguing that the regulations only made the harm greater and did little to protect people. As an adviser to Richard Nixon he was a major proponent of abolishing military conscription in the United States.

He was a great advocate of school vouchers, something he proposed in his book Capitalism and Freedom in 1962. And to this purpose he established the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation to promote competition in the field of education. He was a president of the American Economic Association and a founding member and president of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international organization of free market academics.

In 1988 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also described his political views as libertarian. He said: “I think the term classical liberal is also equally applicable. I don’t really care very much what I’m called. I’m much more interested in having people thinking about the ideas, rather than the person.”

Dr. Friedman slipped in the bath and hit his head. He was rushed to hospital but passed away from heart failure while there. He is is survived by wife of 60 plus years, Rose, a daughter Janet, his son David, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He is also survived by the many people who came to love and admire him for his great advocacy of individual freedom. He was one of the greatest lights of liberty to ever shine in the world. And he will be missed.

Below is an excerpt from Friedman's series Free to Choose