On the Passing of My Friend, Milton Friedman

Posted: Wed Nov 29, 2006 11:40 am Post subject: Dr. Milton Friedman


Someone once asked George Schultz, “Who was the most important leader you ever met?” Schultz’s answer ran like this: Of all the presidents and prime ministers, kings, princes, and dictators I ever knew, the most important man I ever met was an academic scribbler from Chicago named Milton Friedman. In his first term as president, Richard Nixon famously and erroneously said, “We are all Keynesian now.” Friedman shattered that Keynesian consensus to which Nixon referred. Yet though his contributions to economics won him a Nobel Prize, Friedman’s legacy extends far beyond economics. A brilliant debater, gracious yet blessed with a rapier wit, Friedman was a man who remained confident in the principles of classical liberalism, and was willing to follow those principles wherever they led (to the occasional consternation of his conservative friends). His argument for the all-volunteer military played a decisive role in that debate, a fact in which he took great pride (once thought daft, the military would never want to return to a draft now), school choice (in my view, the Civil Rights movement of the 21st century), the re-legalization of crimes of self-ownership, floating exchange rates, and a negative income tax to help the less fortunate.

In recent years I was fortunate to get to know Dr. Friedman. Some months ago I asked him what it was like to live through decades that saw emerge an intellectual consensus against freedom: did he and Rose ever feel alone and outgunned? Dr. Friedman thought for a moment and said, “We were lucky in that we are optimists. It did not matter how few still understood. The ideas were right.”

Dr. Friedman recently passed away at age 94. He is survived by his children David and Jan, numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren, and his collaborator and bride of nearly 70 years, Rose Friedman.

The enormity of this country’s loss in his passing defies description.

Your humble servant,

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