January 29, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Happy Milton Friedman Day

This evening PBS rebroadcast a documentary on the life and ideas of Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman, who did so much to reverse the slide toward left-liberal statist economic policies as the founder of the "Chicago School" of economics. His monetarist theories had a powerful influence on Paul Volcker, who deserves much of the credit for stopping inflation while serving as Federal Reserve chairman from 1979 to 1987. (He was succeeded by Alan Greenspan.) The program showed that Friedman was not only brilliant thinker and eloquent speaker, but also a warm and caring human being who was interested in other people -- quite the opposite of the "heartless" caricature to which economic conservatives are usually subjected. Actually, Friedman considered himself a classical liberal, as in libertarian, an intellectual tradition that he did much to resurrect. (Try explaining that to a typical "movement conservative" of the present day...) The PBS program was shown on the occasion of "Milton Friedman Day," for which a Web site was created. Link via Cafe Hayek*, [where Robert Russell assails the often-slanderous Paul Krugman for accusing Friedman of intellectual dishonesty, via Michael Oliver. Actually, Krugman praises Friedman as a great man, but argued that his role as a free-market policy advocate gradually came to undermine his role as an academic. It's a fair point.]

* (as in Friedrich von Hayek, the Austrian free market economic philosopher) Coming soon: a review of Friedman's classic book Capitalism and Freedom, in the context of the recent decline of free market economics in the Western world.