94-year old free market champion Milton Friedman died yesterday. Many great accountings for his career will be written, I’m sure — here is the New York Times notice.
Milton Friedman in 1964 – New York Times photo
At the end of the 20th century, it certainly appeared that Friedman was more right than Keynes, and almost diametrically opposed to Marx. There are questions about whether free markets will be able to pull the former Soviet Union out of its economic woes, however, and we have run into a lot of questions about how to establish the free markets that guarantee political freedom in nations in Africa, Asia and South America.
Friedman was the greatest exponent of school vouchers in America, a view that I found had intellectual appeal but which, to me, fails to win any respect in actual practice, especially when the voucher programs hammer away at the foundations of public education (such as the public schools Friedman attended) by systematically choking off funding for public education.
I for one will miss his voice in these debates. It was a well-educated, gentle voice, tempered by reason and a lot of common sense. Free market economists grow almost abundant these days. There will never be another Friedman.
Update: Nice tributes and serious criticism. A friend uses an exercise in class requiring students to write obituaries for famous economists — Friedman’s death offers ample opportunities to collect real obits to use for examples. See some of the comments, such as:
- Richard Adams in The Guardian (critical, mostly)
- Scientific American Online, with the headline “Did We Lose A Scientist?”
- “Thatcher praises Friedman” in The Telegraph Online
- Council on Foreign Relations tribute
- Paul Donnelly in Immigration Daily, a genuine tribute
- Houston Chronicle editorial
- Financial Express of India, “Economist Extraordinaire”
- Mike Norman at The Motley Fool, “The Passing of a Giant” (which closes off with this line: “Maybe that’s why Milton Friedman once said, ‘We are all Keynesians now.'” I had thought Nixon said that, and Friedman criticized him for it — a quote to track down!)
- International Herald Tribune Viewpoints
- The Age (Australia), “Milton Friedman, patron saint of free-market economics”
- Tim Ferguson in Forbes, their obituary
- The Library of Economics and Liberty, podcasts: Friedman on Money; Friedman on Capitalism and Money
Nothing about Friedman is up yet at The Becker-Posner Blog. If they do anything at all on Friedman, it will be worth the read.