Milton Friedman, the grandmaster of conservative economic theory in the postwar era and a prime force in the movement of nations toward lesser government and greater reliance on free markets and individual responsibility, died today.
The free-market champion was a major influence on contemporary economic thought and was widely known and cited for his controversial thoughts. His emphasis on liberty almost always challenged people’s conventional way of thinking and although I was introduced to his work quite late in my life, his emphatic ideas on economics profoundly impacted my thoughts. One of his famous quotes which were the opening lines of his book, Capitalism and Freedom is as shocking as it is liberating [via Marginal Revolution]:
President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”… Neither half of that statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society.
I am a believer in community action so I may not completely agree with his views. His response/defense of the above thought was as follows:
“What your country can do for you,” Mr. Friedman said, implies that the government is the patron, the citizen the ward; and “what you can do for your country” assumes that the government is the master, the citizen the servant. Rather, he said, you should ask, “What I and my compatriots can do through government to help discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all protect our freedom.”
You cannot help but agree. His ideas enriched us all and the world is poorer without him. But he has spawned a whole generation of independent thinkers, including our dear libertarians that will carry his ideas forward. Peace to him.
An interesting tidbit from the NY Times article:
In his first economic-theory class at Chicago, he was the beneficiary of another accident — the fact that his last name began with an “F.” The class was seated alphabetically, and he was placed next to Rose Director, a master’s-degree candidate from Portland, Ore. That seating arrangement shaped his whole life, he said. He married Ms. Director six years later. And she, after becoming an important economist in her own right, helped Mr. Friedman form his ideas and maintain his intellectual rigor.
Lends credence to my theory of “be very careful in making the choice of the person you marry”, it can affect your whole damn life. I’m glad it affected Friedman positively :) And of course, his stint at the Chicago School also proves that the company you keep matters.