It is the tradition of the Mannkal Foundation to acknowledge the intellectual genius of those who have created the mechanism of our civil society. The economic and legal structures, without which our peaceful and prosperous society would not be possible.
Among such people, must be, Professor Milton Friedman.
Let me mention also that Professor Friedman always gave full credit to his remarkable economist wife, Rose, who jokingly claimed half of Milton’s 1976 Nobel Prize.
With parents like Milton and Rose, no wonder their son, David, is also a world-class Economist and David’s son Patri, continues the tradition of proposing radical solutions that benefit the human race.
Milton Friedman changed the world by using relentless and polite persuasion to bring about floating exchange rates, and to abolish wage and price controls, the legalisation of private gold ownership, for dramatic tax reductions, and an end to military conscription. His 1957 Theory of the Consumption Function, fundamentally undermined Keynesian economics.
Friedman’s economics worked because he himself had worked. He rejected ideas that worked in smart men’s heads but failed in working men’s lives.
As Author, Daniel J Flynn said, “Fellow economists laughed at him, before the 1970’s laughed back at them”.
He debated adversaries with unfailing patience and graciousness. It was often said that economists liked to debate with Milton, particularly when he was not there.
My favourite two Milton Friedman books are:
- Capitalism and Freedom – it contains all the theories Friedman stressed during his career as a public intellectual. It emphasised the inseparable link between economic and political freedoms; and
- Free to Choose – the book that accompanied the 10 part TV series by the same name.
That reminds me of what Queen Elizabeth said to him as the Friedmans boarded the Royal Yacht Britannia in San Francisco harbour. It was, “I know you! Philip is always watching you on telly”.
A year before Milton Friedman died, Stephen Moore, from the Wall Street Journal asked him, “What can we do to make America more prosperous?”
“Three things,” he replied instantly.
“Promote free trade, school choice for all children and cut government spending”.
“How much should we cut?” asked Moore, to which Friedman replied, “As much as possible”.
Milton Friedman visited Australia four times – which could be the topic for another time. Googling Milton Friedman and watching videos only gives you a brief glimpse of the range and scope of this man’s influence and this year we celebrate the Centenary of Milton Friedman’s birth.