Wednesday, August 1, 2012

UChicago's Milton Friedman at 100

My dilapidated copy, purchased 1/11/1971
Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning long-time Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, would have been 100 years old yesterday.

His ideas and I were first introduced in a freshman Common Core Economics course at the University of Chicago, taught by a colleague.  One of the key book assignments was, of course, Capitalism & Freedom, which has influenced my thinking ever since. 

Fellow Nobelist and UChicago Economics Professor Gary Becker called Friedman "the most important economist of the 20th century.”  Friedman was a leader of the "Chicago School" of Economics, the principles of which he discussed in addressing the University's Board of Trustees in 1974 (link):
“In discussions of economic policy, ‘Chicago’ stands for belief in the efficacy of the free market as a means of organizing resources, for skepticism about government intervention into economic affairs, and for emphasis on the quantity of money as a key factor in producing inflation.  
“In discussions of economic science,” he continued, “‘Chicago’ stands for an approach that takes seriously the use of economic theory as a tool for analyzing a startlingly wide range of concrete problems, rather than as an abstract mathematical structure of great beauty but little power; for an approach that insists on the empirical testing of theoretical generalizations and that rejects alike facts without theory and theory without facts.”
From the UChicago Magazine (link) at the time of Friedman's death about 6 years ago:
That his ideas often met with criticism didn’t faze him. “Mr. Friedman loved to argue,” [Chicago] Graduate School of Business professor Austan Goolsbee wrote in the November 17 New York Times. “They say he was the greatest debater in all of economics.” In a 2000 PBS interview former Secretary of State George P. Schultz, a former Chicago colleague, recalled: “[T]here was a saying: Everybody loves to argue with Milton. Particularly when he isn’t there.”
Last I heard, the Becker-Friedman Economics Institute (link) at the University will be taking over the buildings long occupied by the Chicago Theological Seminary, across 58th Street from the Oriental Institute and kiddie-corner from the new Business School complex.  In this time of ominous growing government control over our economy and our private lives, his legacy is as important now as it has ever been.

Richard Balsamo

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Re: The "Stimulus": Economics As the Dismal Science -- Keynesians Say 1+1=3, Milton Friedman & Common Sense Say No Way

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