Bryan Caplan and the National Review on 100 Years of Milton Friedman

Cite this Article
Joshua D. Wright, Bryan Caplan and the National Review on 100 Years of Milton Friedman, Truth on the Market (July 31, 2012),

Here.  The most interesting part is Caplan’s take on why it is Friedman stands apart from other free-market thinkers:

Why does Friedman stand apart from my other idols?  In the end, it’s the absence of obscurantism.  Friedman makes his points as simply, clearly, and bluntly as possible.  He never rambles on.  He never hides behind academic jargon.  Healmost never makes bizarre philosophical assertions to explain away obvious facts.  He never tries to win fair weather converts by speaking in vague generalities about “liberty.”  Friedman never turned out to have feet of clay, because he played every game barefoot.

Many libertarians look down on Friedman for his moderation and statist compromises.  I’m about as radical as libertarians come, but these critics have never impressed me.  By any normal standard, Friedman was a very radical libertarian indeed.  If you’re going to take points off for a few deviations, remember to give him extra credit for earnestly trying to convince people who didn’t already agree with him.  His arguments for liberty weren’t just intellectually compelling; he made them with humor and common decency.  Friedman was a paragon of libertarian friendliness – a model of the nobility we should all aspire to.

In a just world, we’d all be Friedmanites now.  But don’t be bitter that he wasn’t more successful.  Rejoice that a century ago, Milton Friedman was born – and forever enriched the world of ideas.

And a paragraph from the National Review tribute:

Friedman’s economics was in many ways an economics of the poor. As early as 1955 he was publishing articles about the failure of government-monopoly schools to properly educate the children of the poor and marginalized, and he proposed a system of vouchers to allow the disadvantaged to pursue the same educational opportunities that their better-off neighbors enjoyed. Liberals grimaced to hear him say it, but he correctly identified the minimum-wage requirement as “one of the most, if not the most anti-black law on the statute books,” and referred to the elevated black unemployment rate as “a disgrace and scandal.” He spent much of his public life arguing that “there has never been a more effective machine for the elimination of poverty than the free-enterprise system and a free market.” By contrast, he described the welfare state as “a machine for producing poor people.” His most influential work (conducted together with his colleague Anna Jacobson Schwartz) was on the causes of the Great Depression, making a powerful case that it was not market failure but government policy — specifically Federal Reserve policy — that turned a normal economic downturn into an epic catastrophe.

Read both.