November 16, 2006 -- Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman passed away on November 16, 2006 at the age of 94. Friedman was one of the most influential economists in the twentieth century and probably the most famous one advocating free markets, thanks in large part to his TV series and accompanying book "Free to Choose."
Friedman was the brightest light in the Chicago school of economics, which also included Nobel Laureate George Stigler. Friedman was best known in economics for his theory of monetarism. This approach challenged the Keynesian theory that promoted the efficacy of manipulating the money supply to bring about positive economic result. Friedman believed in keeping a stable money supply and avoiding inflation. His insights gained currency in the 1970s as government attempts to deal with both unemployment and rising prices through Keynesian methods produced the worst of all worlds, "stagflation," that is, high unemployment and high prices.
Friedman was challenged by other free-market economists, especially those of the Austrian school associated with Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek, who opposed a government central bank and maintained that currency should be tied to commodities like gold, which were less susceptible to political manipulation. Friedman, who said he favored economic liberty for pragmatic rather than principled reasons, also came under criticism from libertarians who believed that while markets indeed are the best way to produce wealth, a principled defense of the individual liberty was necessary as well.
Milton Friedman was one of the most intelligent and articulate voices for economic liberty.
But Friedman was best known to the public for his strong advocacy of individual liberty as well as free markets and limited government. He pushed for the abolition of the military draft and favored decriminalization of drugs and prostitution. He was a strong advocate of Social Security privatization and his ideas were instrumental in putting retirement accounts into private hands in Chile.
With his wife Rose, Milton Friedman helped produce a 10-part TV series in 1980 called " Free to Choose " with an accompanying book that popularized free markets as Ronald Reagan was coming to power with his free market policies and mantra that "Government is the problem, not the solution." The leaders of free market revolutions in communist countries often looked to Friedman for their inspiration. Friedman's works were especially popular in China.
Friedman was a leading light in the creation of an economic freedom index developed by an international coalition of groups and activists. That index is published in the United States by The Cato Institute. Friedman has lent his name to that organization's Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. In recent years The Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has promoted markets for education. The Friedmans' son David carries on the family tradition as a strong free market advocate.
Milton Friedman was one of the most intelligent and articulate voices for economic liberty. He will be missed.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.