Happy 100th birthday, Milton Friedman

posted at 12:01 pm on July 31, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

In these strange times of Obamanomics, populism, Keynesian revival, envy politics, big government, bureaucracy, regulation, and widely held belief in basic economic fallacies, the life and work of Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman is all that much more poignant. Though he passed away in 2006, today would’ve marked Mr. Friedman’s 100th birthday, and it’s always worthwhile to appreciate a voice like his that could cut through all of the baloney out there with such clarity and simplicity. If you haven’t read Capitalism and Freedom, get on it — it’s a quick and rewarding read that delivers more intellectual honesty than you can shake a stick at.

Just to take a few minutes to remember this humble yet mind-blowingly brilliant economist, and as a demonstration of why we need more voices like his to help make freedom cool again, here are just a couple awesome op-eds and videos for you reading/viewing pleasure. First, from Stephen Moore in the WSJ:

It’s a tragedy that Milton Friedman—born 100 years ago on July 31—did not live long enough to combat the big-government ideas that have formed the core of Obamanomics. It’s perhaps more tragic that our current president, who attended the University of Chicago where Friedman taught for decades, never fell under the influence of the world’s greatest champion of the free market. Imagine how much better things would have turned out, for Mr. Obama and the country. …

In the 1960s, Friedman famously explained that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” If the government spends a dollar, that dollar has to come from producers and workers in the private economy. There is no magical “multiplier effect” by taking from productive Peter and giving to unproductive Paul. As obvious as that insight seems, it keeps being put to the test. Obamanomics may be the most expensive failed experiment in free-lunch economics in American history.

And from his former student, Thomas Sowell:

If Milton Friedman were alive today — and there was never a time when he was more needed — he would be one hundred years old. He was born on July 31, 1912. But Professor Friedman’s death at age 94 deprived the nation of one of those rare thinkers who had both genius and common sense. …

As a professor, he did not attempt to convert students to his political views. I made no secret of the fact that I was a Marxist when I was a student in Professor Friedman’s course, but he made no effort to change my views. He once said that anybody who was easily converted was not worth converting.

I was still a Marxist after taking Professor Friedman’s class. Working as an economist in the government converted me.

And this, my friends, is what sanity looks like:


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100 !

Bmore on July 31, 2012 at 12:04 PM

Happy Birthday, Uncle Miltie!

His PBS series, Free to Choose, was excellent.

Ward Cleaver on July 31, 2012 at 12:04 PM

I met my husband on October 18, 1995. Within a half hour of being introduced he had managed to work Milton Friedman into the conversation. The Friedmans were like gods to him.
Fast forward 17 years(and almost 10 years of marriage) later-now I’m a ‘Friedman fan’ too.
Happy Birthday, Dr. Friedman…where ever you are.

annoyinglittletwerp on July 31, 2012 at 12:06 PM

A man who was truly impossible to dislike. He was the most clear-headed economist of his age, and an amazing teacher.

MadisonConservative on July 31, 2012 at 12:06 PM

Here is what amounts to all the economics lesson’s you’ll ever need across 89 Milton Friedman videos:

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL658A06660848E2D8&feature=plcp

And Friedman’s series “The Power of the Market” across 30 videos:

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC508C05C017CEC8E&feature=plpp

And the perennial favorite, “The Pencil:”

http://youtu.be/R5Gppi-O3a8

Good Lt on July 31, 2012 at 12:07 PM

And this, my friends, is what sanity looks like:

Sure am glad you weren’t referring to Donahue.

Bmore on July 31, 2012 at 12:07 PM

Love how he totally shut down that pumpkin pie-haired freak in the second video.

Pale Rider on July 31, 2012 at 12:08 PM

Should be a national holiday.

I became a conservative because of three books: Atlas Shrugged, Capitalism and Freedom, and The Way The World Works by Jude Wanniski.

rockmom on July 31, 2012 at 12:09 PM

Thank you so much for this post, Erika!

ITguy on July 31, 2012 at 12:09 PM

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.”

One of my favorite Friedman quotes.

Bitter Clinger on July 31, 2012 at 12:10 PM

100, and forever, one of the best men that ever lived, a man/mensch of incredible caliber.

View/download, while you still have such treasures availble.

How regretful that Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand are not around, to take the looters/moochers to the woodsheds.

Always, always, despise the looters, with all your passion. The moochers are just dumb sheep, in the modern day plantations.

Thank you Erika for featuring this.

Schadenfreude on July 31, 2012 at 12:11 PM

“Free To Choose” changed my life.

As a young man I read it and it changed the course of my life.

I can’t thank you enough.

Happy Birthday Professor Friedman.

aquaviva on July 31, 2012 at 12:12 PM

The fellow spinning the narrative for the first 1:38 likes to use force. Nice smackdown Milton as always. Happy 100 and a tip of my hat to you. You are missed but never gone and forgotten. ; )

Bmore on July 31, 2012 at 12:13 PM

Thank you Erika for featuring this.

Schadenfreude on July 31, 2012 at 12:11 PM

I’ll second that. Thank You Erika. ; )

Bmore on July 31, 2012 at 12:14 PM

We were free to choose, and we chose extremely poorly.

Media, spontaneously combust for enabling such charlatanry.

Those who don’t combust, suffocate from eating Obama’s sh*t, while mistaking it for Beluga caviar.

Free people choose liberty.

‘Enslaved’ people choose Obamas and E. Warrens.

Schadenfreude on July 31, 2012 at 12:15 PM

A man who was truly impossible to dislike.

MadisonConservative on July 31, 2012 at 12:06 PM

I agree.
Many friends of mine have a knee-jerk reaction about the guy.
But I always tell them he’s the best to read an listen to, because you’ll never find yourself objecting to or questioning anything he says for any reason other than substance.
Immense charm and an incredibly clear speaker.

verbaluce on July 31, 2012 at 12:16 PM

A real giant, thanks for the tribute Erika…

OmahaConservative on July 31, 2012 at 12:16 PM

And this, my friends, is what sanity looks like:

.
Sure am glad you weren’t referring to Donahue.

Bmore on July 31, 2012 at 12:07 PM

.
Dona- . . . WHO ?

listens2glenn on July 31, 2012 at 12:17 PM

lesson’s

Not sure why that apostrophe made it in there. More coffee needed, I guess.

Good Lt on July 31, 2012 at 12:17 PM

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.”

.
One of my favorite Friedman quotes.

Bitter Clinger on July 31, 2012 at 12:10 PM

.
I’ll second that !

listens2glenn on July 31, 2012 at 12:19 PM

Immense charm and an incredibly clear speaker.

verbaluce on July 31, 2012 at 12:16 PM

He and his wife were two of the most charming people, ever.

Yet, he could take down lefties with more substance than 1000 of them could ever dream of.

Ayn Rand squished the gnats with logic, wrath and fury.

Milton Friedman squished them with logic, charm and smiles.

Schadenfreude on July 31, 2012 at 12:21 PM

The link associated with my username here always points to his TV series available for download. That series is a college level education in basic economics that is available for free and presented in a way that is easy to understand. If you have kids over grade 6 level, watch it with them and discuss it. It is a great educational opportunity for a family over the summer vacation.

crosspatch on July 31, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Ok, as a libertarian leaning Repub that believes the feds should get out our business, I report this 8 minute video where Milton Friedman laid out his case for legalizing (or leaving to the states) drugs:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLsCC0LZxkY&info=FriedmanOnDrugs

anotherJoe on July 31, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Smart guy that had his ideals survived, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in. Somehow I think the ideals are coming back.

Hope I don’t get a bump for this link but I find it’s hard to find a favorite.

http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/5001.Milton_Friedman

teejk on July 31, 2012 at 12:24 PM

We really need a man like Milton Friedman now. He articulated economic truth in simple, easy to understand concepts.

The Rogue Tomato on July 31, 2012 at 12:25 PM

A man who was truly impossible to dislike.

MadisonConservative on July 31, 2012 at 12:06 PM

…today the current crop running the country and the MSM would FIND a reason!

KOOLAID2 on July 31, 2012 at 12:25 PM

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.”

The only reason we import oil, rather than producing all the oil we need ourselves, is because of the federal government.

ITguy on July 31, 2012 at 12:30 PM

Thomas Sowell (born June 30, 1930) is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author. A National Humanities Medal winner, he advocates laissez-faire economics and writes from a conservative and libertarian perspective. He is currently the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

I know it’s Wiki, but wanted all to know that Thomas Sowell is not just the former student of Mr. Friedman, but the “Rose and Milton Friedman Sr. Fellow” at the Hoover Inst. at Stanford.

Schadenfreude on July 31, 2012 at 12:31 PM

As a professor, he did not attempt to convert students to his political views. I made no secret of the fact that I was a Marxist when I was a student in Professor Friedman’s course, but he made no effort to change my views. He once said that anybody who was easily converted was not worth converting.

I was still a Marxist after taking Professor Friedman’s class. Working as an economist in the government converted me.

— Thomas Sowell

Schadenfreude on July 31, 2012 at 12:38 PM

Speaking of, the congress is auditing the agency which had thos Vegas parties, and there are over 100 more such parties on your dole on the ‘horizon’ (one with over one million for one day/dept only) Unfortunately the congress doesn’t find them out before the happen. To hell with all of them, incl. the congress.

Schadenfreude on July 31, 2012 at 12:40 PM

those Vegas parties

Schadenfreude on July 31, 2012 at 12:41 PM

Thank you so much for this post, Erika!

ITguy on July 31, 2012 at 12:09 PM

Ditto.

Lost in Jersey on July 31, 2012 at 12:42 PM

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.”

One of my favorite Friedman quotes.

Bitter Clinger on July 31, 2012 at 12:10 PM

From the Chicago School to the Chicago Way.
ForeDownward!

Barnestormer on July 31, 2012 at 12:43 PM

Hear! Hear!

The liberals will never understand his wisdom. It’s too rational for their emotional attachment to foolishness.

backwoods conservative on July 31, 2012 at 12:49 PM

If we had more people who spoke plainly like Milton Friedman, we’d have a better nation. Friedman was never afraid to shoot down a false premise, or point out the problems with a sacred cow like Social Security.

hawksruleva on July 31, 2012 at 12:52 PM

Happy Birthday, Friedman.

Speaking of economics, isn’t there law which indicates that a son can not be held liable for the debts of his father?

If so, doesn’t that make all the generational theft going on in Washington DC, piling up unsustainable debt on the backs of unborn children who didn’t voluntarily incur that debt, also illegal? How can it not be illegal pile debt on the shoulders of unborn children that aren’t even alive to defend themselves or vote? It’s immoral, and since that is what America is all about, that makes American immoral.

America is not the shining city on the hill that Reagan described anymore.

FloatingRock on July 31, 2012 at 12:56 PM

a sacred cow like Social Security.

hawksruleva on July 31, 2012 at 12:52 PM

It would be more appropriately named Socialist Insecurity

ITguy on July 31, 2012 at 1:00 PM

Thank you, Dr. Friedman!!

Khun Joe on July 31, 2012 at 1:01 PM

When Phil Donahue complained to Milton Friedman about “greed”, Donahue never stopped to think about how wealth is created by producing a product or service that people want and voluntarily spend their money to buy, while it is the big-government leftists who are greedy and think that they have a right to take by force money that was earned by business owners.

When the left screems “greed” it is, as usual, PROJECTION.

ITguy on July 31, 2012 at 1:06 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfdRpyfEmBE
brilliant every time, no wonder Sowell is as well

smitty41 on July 31, 2012 at 1:06 PM

Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman is what a true Nobel laureate looks like.

Not the fraud currently residing in the White House, who was given a Nobel Prize, but didn’t earn it.

ITguy on July 31, 2012 at 1:09 PM

I loved “Free to Choose” — both the book and the TV series around 1979-1980 sometime. I wish we had him instead of Krugman offering advice to the White House, NYT, etc.

jwolf on July 31, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Great man.

The C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien of economic thought.

PappyD61 on July 31, 2012 at 1:21 PM

Thank you so much for this post, Erika!

ITguy on July 31, 2012 at 12:09 PM

Kudos, yes.

PappyD61 on July 31, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Happy Birthday, Friedman.

Speaking of economics, isn’t there law which indicates that a son can not be held liable for the debts of his father?

If so, doesn’t that make all the generational theft going on in Washington DC, piling up unsustainable debt on the backs of unborn children who didn’t voluntarily incur that debt, also illegal? How can it not be illegal pile debt on the shoulders of unborn children that aren’t even alive to defend themselves or vote? It’s immoral, and since that is what America is all about, that makes American immoral.

America is not the shining city on the hill that Reagan described anymore.

FloatingRock on July 31, 2012 at 12:56 PM

****The American GOVERNMENT was never the shining city on the hill. That light, that shine was the glow of it’s free people.

PappyD61 on July 31, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Why is everyone completely ignoring F. A. Hayek? He dismantled Keynes to his face. Their face-to-face debates (and later correspondence near the end of Keynes’ life) were legendary. It was the “fight of the century.” The battlelines of all modern economic debates were drawn because of those debates. Friedman was largely riding Hayek’s coat tails. Hayek was from Austria, so he’s not as popular as Friedman, an American, even though Hayek literally taught Friedman when he was a visiting professor at the Chicago School of Economics (never officially joined that school of economic thought though.)

BigWillieStyles on July 31, 2012 at 1:26 PM

Ayn Rand was entertainment. I never hear of her while earning my econ degree. Friedman was the standard for our professors. The Democrats have an economics blackout. It is too math and technology intense.

seven on July 31, 2012 at 1:52 PM

the life and work of Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman is all that much more poignant

All the more depressing is that todays crop of Nobel Prize winning economists include the likes of Paul Krugman. We really are doomed.

Scrappy on July 31, 2012 at 2:00 PM

If you haven’t read Capitalism and Freedom, get on it — it’s a quick and rewarding read that delivers more intellectual honesty than you can shake a stick at.

I haven’t yet, but I just added it to my Amazon Wish List. I’ve read several of Thomas Sowell’s books, it’s time to read some Friedman too.

I highly recommend “New Deal or Raw Deal?” by Burton W. Folsom, Jr. The parallels between what FDR did during the Great Depression and what Obama has been doing for the last 3 1/2 years are striking.

backwoods conservative on July 31, 2012 at 2:07 PM

To celebrate Dr. Friedman’s birthday, I will share this article and several of the linked pieces with any young people I work with or know.

TedInATL on July 31, 2012 at 3:17 PM

Another, good Friedman quote:

“A society that puts equality–in a sense of equality of outcome–ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality or freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force,introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.”

Also, hard to believe that Thomas Sowell flirted with Marxism, I would have thought his big brain would be immune to its seductive allure.

Thomas More on July 31, 2012 at 3:19 PM

People forget that Friedman was a fantastic technical economist, too. He went straight at the linchpin of The General Theory with his A Theory of the Consumption Function. Hey, what if c isn’t a constant?

We’re not forgetting about Hayek, by the way, but it’s not his centenary today (although the 20th anniversary of his passing was earlier in the year).

DrSteve on July 31, 2012 at 3:33 PM

It never ceases to amaze me how naive the Left is when it comes to money and economics — just like the dopey kid in video #2 who wanted a 100% inheritance tax so the government could redistribute wealth as it so desired. What in hell is with these people, and why are they so eager to give government such power? Hey, kid, why don’t you decide what’s best for you, instead of others? That’s what America is all about.

RobertMN on July 31, 2012 at 3:41 PM

Why is everyone completely ignoring F. A. Hayek?

BigWillieStyles on July 31, 2012 at 1:26 PM

It’s not Hayek’s birthday.

RINO in Name Only on July 31, 2012 at 3:50 PM

he probably would have lived longer but he kept trying untested medicine proscribed by unlicensed doctors who told him it would work

Zekecorlain on July 31, 2012 at 3:59 PM

“Free To Choose” changed my life.

As a young man I read it and it changed the course of my life.

I can’t thank you enough.

Happy Birthday Professor Friedman.

aquaviva on July 31, 2012 at 12:12 PM

Hubby says the same thing. Too bad he had to find Friedman on his own. More high schools and colleges should use Friedman’s books as texts.

BTW ~ My favorite video is the one above of Friedman schooling Donahue on greed. At least, Donahue was open to discussing the topic. I’ll give him that.

Fallon on July 31, 2012 at 4:00 PM

My goodness, I miss Milton Friedman. Like so many classical liberals and lovers of the free market, I mostly miss his wisdom and the cogent way he argued for classical liberal principles. But I also miss his smile. I miss the serene, kind look he had when speaking with friend or foe. He radiated decency and gentleness, and that was one of his most admirable and endearing characteristics. He stayed calm, and kept that smile, in situations that would have driven many of us to far more tempestuous responses. It made him an extremely effective advocate for our principles.

Happy 100th Birthday, Milton Friedman!

ModernConservative on July 31, 2012 at 4:02 PM

****The American GOVERNMENT was never the shining city on the hill. That light, that shine was the glow of it’s free people.

PappyD61 on July 31, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Here! Here!

Well said…and so true.

Solaratov on July 31, 2012 at 4:18 PM

Why is everyone completely ignoring F. A. Hayek?

BigWillieStyles on July 31, 2012 at 1:26 PM

Because it’s not Hayek’s birthday.

Solaratov on July 31, 2012 at 4:19 PM

Gee, I wonder why Google didn’t post a logo in his honor. They posted one for Gustav Klimt a couple of weeks ago.

nopendejos on July 31, 2012 at 4:33 PM

We need you now, more than ever, Miltie! You were the best thing to happen to peace, freedom and prosperity since Adam Smith!

MJBrutus on July 31, 2012 at 4:52 PM

Erika keeps on being the voice of sanity here. Now do yourself a favor and read some von Mises.

Dante on July 31, 2012 at 5:00 PM

aquaviva on July 31, 2012 at 12:12 PM

It certainly changed how I view the world. Milton got me to understand that political freedom is inseparable from economic freedom. He got me to understand that protectionism only hurts the nation that erects barriers and that trade and even a “trade deficit” is an alloyed good.

He got me to understand that and so much more.

MJBrutus on July 31, 2012 at 5:06 PM

Uncle Miltie is here!

Pablo Snooze on July 31, 2012 at 5:52 PM

Erika keeps on being the voice of sanity here. Now do yourself a favor and read some von Mises.

Dante on July 31, 2012 at 5:00 PM

http://www.mises.org

Although I would begin with Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson.

cavalier973 on July 31, 2012 at 6:06 PM

Friedman was in general a supporter of maximum individual liberty in many ways:

He proposed “The Role of Government in Education” in 1955. In 1996 Friedman, along with his wife, founded the Foundation for Educational Choice. He was a major propagator of the volunteer military [...]

Another great quote: “There is no respect in which inhabitants of a low-income neighborhood are so disadvantaged as in the kind of schooling they can get for their children.” – Milton Friedman

RIP Mr. Friedman

rocksandbroncs on July 31, 2012 at 6:07 PM

What, no Google banner commemoration? I’m shocked!

Blacklake on July 31, 2012 at 6:37 PM

I miss this man so much.

Saltysam on July 31, 2012 at 9:20 PM

What a genius this man was, yet able to clearly articulate, in a manner clear to non-economists, the fundamentals of economics.

AZfederalist on July 31, 2012 at 10:29 PM

Because it’s not Hayek’s birthday.

Solaratov on July 31, 2012 at 4:19 PM

No, it’s the false credit Stephen Moore is giving Milton Friedman. Milton Friedman did not do what Moore claims in that column. Hayek did it decades before (and won the Nobel Prize in Economics three years before Friedman to boot.)

Hayek is the founder of modern microeconomic thought. Milton Friedman, for all his positives, is still within the bounds of macroeconomics.

BigWillieStyles on August 2, 2012 at 11:16 AM

Erika keeps on being the voice of sanity here. Now do yourself a favor and read some von Mises.

Dante on July 31, 2012 at 5:00 PM

http://www.mises.org

Although I would begin with Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson.

cavalier973 on July 31, 2012 at 6:06 PM

Unfortunately, von Mises was the mentor to Hayek. Hayek made the Austrian School of Economics more than just an obscure thing no one knew about. His dismantled Keynes to his face at Keynes’ school. Hayek was the one that did all that Stephen Moore credits Milton Friedman for (the dismantling of Keynes, the dismantling of central planning, the winning of a Nobel Prize in Economics in the time of socialists as Hayek won it three years prior to Friedman, etc.)

BigWillieStyles on August 2, 2012 at 11:19 AM