Thursday, November 16, 2006

Milton Friedman, 94

Today, upon news of the death of Nobel Laureate economist Dr. Milton Friedman, Gordon St. Angelo, president and CEO of the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, offered the following statement:

America has lost a true visionary and advocate for human freedom. And I have lost a great friend.

Milton’s passion for freedom and liberty has influenced more lives than he ever could possibly know. His writings and ideas have transformed the minds of U.S. Presidents, world leaders, entrepreneurs and freshmen economic majors alike. The loss of his passion, incisive mind and dedication to freedom are all national treasures that we mourn for today.

Milton never chose to slow down; even at 94 he kept fighting to bring educational equality to all of America’s children. And it’s this vision, this drive for educational liberty that the Friedman Foundation will continue to bring to families throughout America.

His impact on my life over the last 33 years was significant. His impact on the world was momentous. Without a doubt, few people have done more to advance civil and economic liberties throughout the world during their lifetime than Dr. Milton Friedman.
Here's an excerpt from a July, 2006 Wall Street Journal interview which included Mrs. Friedman:
Mr. Friedman here shifted focus. "What's really killed the Republican Party isn't spending, it's Iraq. As it happens, I was opposed to going into Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the simple reason that I do not believe the United States of America ought to be involved in aggression." Mrs. Friedman--listening to her husband with an ear cocked--was now muttering darkly.

Milton: "Huh? What?" Rose: "This was not aggression!" Milton (exasperatedly): "It was aggression. Of course it was!" Rose: "You count it as aggression if it's against the people, not against the monster who's ruling them. We don't agree. This is the first thing to come along in our lives, of the deep things, that we don't agree on. We have disagreed on little things, obviously--such as, I don't want to go out to dinner, he wants to go out--but big issues, this is the first one!" Milton: "But, having said that, once we went in to Iraq, it seems to me very important that we make a success of it." Rose: "And we will!"
BTW, Milton Friedman had kind and generous soul. He helped with my book PBS: Behind the Screen-- the final chapter tells the story of how Friedman got Free to Choose on the air, over the opposition of PBS executives. It was based in part on a long on-the-record telephone interview with Friedman, who spoke frankly and at length to a total stranger. He later paid the ultimate compliment a writer can give, when he quoted from my work in his autobiography (co-written with Mrs. Friedman) Two Lucky People:
As Laurence Jarvik writes, "While Galbraith was seen as a moderate by PBS, Friedman, who called himself a liberal and who advocated laissez-faire free-market policies, was viewed as an extremist." He quotes Allen Wallis as saying "The public broadcasting people regarded Friedman as a fascist, an extreme right-winger. They didn't want to have anything to do with him." (p.474)

IMHO, Friedman was a real mensch, who left the world a better place than he found it...

Here's a link to the Free to Choose website. A new PBS show about Friedman is scheduled to air in January, produced by Bob Chitester of the original series. It is called The Power of Choice: The Life and Ideas of Milton Friedman.