As most readers will know by now, Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman passed away earlier this morning. The WSJ tribute is worth reading for those unfamiliar with Friedman’s many contributions to economics and policy. Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson’s comment is the closest I have seen to capturing the magnitude of Friedman’s influence:
“No one in the 20th century has had the ideological influence that Milton Friedman has had in moving the economic profession from Great Depression-era do-goodism towards a friendliness toward, and appreciation of, the free market. We’ve lost a giant in economics.”
On a personal note, Milton Friedman’s reach extended to my own dinner table as a teenager thanks to my father, who had studied some economics himself and was fond of pontificating on economic policy over dinner. I apparently have in common with my colleagues David Bernstein and Ilya Somin (and surely countless others) that our fathers introduced us to Friedman in one way or another. As a child who was mostly obsessed with sports, I now have greater appreciation for my conversational exposure to economics at a young age (thanks Dad). Decades later, some of our most recent conversations have involved Friedman’s work on school choice and the potential gains from unleashing the power of market forces on our school systems. While I never had the honor of meeting Milton Friedman, those hours of dinner conversation and my well-worn copy of Capitalism and Freedom will always have a special meaning for me.
The family has asked that in lieu of flowers or gifts, contributions be made in his honor to the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation. Donations can be made online here.
UPDATE: Here are some links to tributes around blogs: Tyler Cowen, Alex Tabarrok, Austan Goolsbee, Gordon Smith, Steve Levitt.
Your post struck a chord. I forwarded a notice of Friedman’s death to my two kids (one’s away at boarding school) with a message about Mr. Friedman’s influence on their upbringing.
“Not only did he make the world safe for libertarians (my teen kids claim to be the only one’s they know of who characterize themselves as such), but he personally demonstrated in my meetings with him that great, great men can be really, really nice.”
That was the reason I offered as to why I was nice to them. I doubt they bought it (on any level, especially the implicit characterization of me as a great man, let alone a nice one), but I am hopeful they will remember our dinner conversations that apparently contributed much to their intellectual formation with the same warmth you apparently recall your family dinners.