Thursday, November 16, 2006

Milton Friedman, R.I.P.

Nobel-prize winning economist Milton Friedman is dead at age 94, various news outlets are reporting.

Friedman was a great intellect and great innovator. A monetarist who taught at the University of Chicago from 1946 to 1976, he also worked for the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis, where he did much of his seminal research on monetary policy. Friedman invented tax withholding (a temporary solution to the problem of the government's lack of cash flow during the Second World War), which he regretted years later. He also was the first to suggest ideas like vouchers for housing and education, and that the solution to overbooked airline flights should be to ask for volunteers who would receive vouchers for later travel in return for taking a later flight.

With his wife, Rose Director Friedman, he was the author of Free to Choose, a best-selling book that became a television documentary and set the economic tone for the 1980s. He is also the author of the groundbreaking Capitalism and Freedom (1960), which introduced the general public to classical liberal thought.

This is now breaking news, but I expect it to be a major topic of conversation in the libertarian blogosphere in the hours and days to come.

Updates: Ed Crane, president of the Cato Institute, issued this statement today:

"Here's a guy who won the Nobel Prize in economics for his work in monetary theory and he was a great Chicagoan, a great empiricist and theoretician of economics. But ultimately, what Milton believed in was human liberty and he took great joy in trying to promote that concept... Milton would say, 'Maybe I did well and maybe I led the battle but nobody ever said we were going to win this thing at any point in time. Eternal vigilance is required and there have to be people who step up to the plate, who believe in liberty and who are willing to fight for it.'"
The New York Times offers this extensive obituary. A Reuters story in the Washington Post quotes California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:
"When I was first exposed to his powerful writings about money, free markets and individual freedom, it was like getting hit by a thunderbolt. I wound up giving copies of his books and 'Free to Choose' videos to hundreds of my friends and acquaintances."

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