The Legacy Of Milton Friedman

A trio of articles at TCS Daily takes a look at the legacy of Milton Friedman, who passed away last week at the age of 94.

First, Martin Fridson writes about Friedman’s style of gentle persuasion:

Many people become unhinged at the mention of Milton Friedman’s name because they consider it synonymous with “conservatism.” If they were ever to read his actual opinions in Capitalism and Freedom, they would be surprised to discover how far he diverged from a host of dogmas commonly attributed to conservatives.


The most fitting way to honor Milton Friedman’s memory would be for his detractors to decry him, and for his admirers to extol him, for his actual beliefs, as opposed to their form-fitted notions of what he believed. There is no lack of controversy in Capitalism and Freedom‘s proposals, even without the baggage attached to them by supporters and opponents over the past 45 years.

Next, Arnold Kling argues that Friedman’s ideas won the public policy debate not because he was more persuasive, but because he was right:

Overall, the historical record shows that individual choice works well. Government expansion, whether justified by paternalism, regulatory protection, or the collective good, consistently is over-promised in terms of theoretical benefits and delivers adverse unintended consequences in practice. Milton Friedman won debates because he was on the right side.

Finally,  Tim Worstall discusses how Milton Friedman helped him buy a house in Portugal:

So, for something as entirely trivial as that, my ability to purchase a house in Portugal, I’d like to thank Milton Friedman. For he changed the terms of the debate, changed how we talked about the rights of the governors and the governed. Instead of the default condition being ‘prove to us the governors why we should allow you to do this’ it has become ‘you prove to us the governed why we should not be allowed to do as we wish’. An advance in freedom and liberty, I hope you will agree, and one that I have a sneaking suspicion that Milton Friedman would be much prouder of than any piece of academic research or even of some (or all) of the many richly deserved honors that were showered upon him.

I’m sure he’d agree.