Today is Milton Friedman’s 100th birthday. He was born on July 31, 1912, just in time to witness the birth of the Federal Reserve (1913). Monetary policy became his top subject in his career, and he made quite an impact. The Economist ranks him as the most important economist of the 20th century, ahead of John Maynard Keynes.
Everyone remembers Friedman’s monetarist views — that money matters, that monetary aggregates are the major cause of the business cycle, that the Central Bank should adopt a stable monetary policy, etc. What they often forget are his fiscal studies that demonstrated repeatedly that aggressive deficit spending has little or not effect in stimulating the economy.
Various groups are honoring Friedman today around the country. I’m headed to Chicago today to attend the Milton Friedman Centennial at the Drake Hotel, sponsored by the Milton & Rose Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Chicago was his home town for most of his career as an economist. He founded the modern-day Chicago School of Economics.
In honor of this day, I suggest you read my little essay, “My Friendly Fights with Dr. Friedman,” found here: http://www.mskousen.com/2007/09/my-friendly-fights-with-dr-friedman/ It also includes some photographs — and the famous story of the time I tore up his $20. Need to say, Milton and Rose were not pleased and I almost destroyed our long friendship!
I may have been the last person to have lunch with Milton Friedman in October, 2006, at his favorite restaurant, the Italian North Beach Restaurant. Here’s the photo of me and an unshaven Milton:
We had our own Milton Friedman Panel, “What Would Milton Say Today?” at this year’s FreedomFest, and it was standing room only. The panelists were Charles Murray, Robert Enlow, Joel Stern, and Warren Coats, the latter two getting a Ph. D. from Chicago under Friedman. To buy an audio recording of this session, go to www.miracleofamerica.com.
We spent many hours together over the years, and even had a few debates (nobody ever won a debate against Milton). He was a big fan of FreedomFest, and overall positive about my works. Milton was a dear friend and I miss him and his wife Rose a lot.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from Milton Friedman — sound advice to today’s leaders:
“If a tax cut increases government revenues, you haven’t cut taxes enough.”
“I favor tax reductions under any circumstances, for any excuse, for any reason, at any time.”
“A society that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.”
“Competition is a tough weed” (George Stigler). “Freedom is a rare and delicate flower” (Milton Friedman).
“Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”
“Inflation is taxation without legislation.”
“The economy and the stock market are two different things.”
“If government is to exercise power, better in the county than in the state, better in the state than in Washington.”
“The great advances of civilization, whether in architecture or painting, in science or in literature, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government.”
“The minimum wage law is one of the most, if not the most, anti-black laws on the statute books.”
“Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own.”
“The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.”