A Man of Ideas in the Arena; Milton Friedman, 1912-2006

By Samuelson, Robert J. | Newsweek, November 27, 2006 | Go to article overview

A Man of Ideas in the Arena; Milton Friedman, 1912-2006


Samuelson, Robert J., Newsweek


Byline: Robert J. Samuelson

The ideas of economists and political philosophers ... are more powerful than is commonly understood ... Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. --English economist JohnMaynard Keynes, 1883-1946

What Keynes said was true of economist Milton Friedman, who died last week at 94, except that Friedman's immense influence emerged well before his death. He belongs on any list of the 100 most important people since World War II. In some ways, the conversion of China to a market economy, the conquest of double-digit inflation in the United States and elsewhere, the decisions of countless governments to sell (a.k.a., "privatize") nationalized industries--these developments and many more could be traced to him. There was no more ardent or articulate advocate of free markets and personal liberty than Friedman, who was also a NEWSWEEK columnist from 1966 to 1984.

It may seem strange to cite these familiar notions to affirm his historical significance, but that's the point. These ideas were wildly out of fashion when Friedman first championed them in the 1950s. Remembering the Great Depression (the 1930s' unemployment: 18 percent), Americans were suspicious of free markets. In 1962, the appearance of his "Capitalism & Freedom," which remains in print with nearly 1 million copies sold, was a seminal event. It began to change the conversation. Its big theme was that economic freedom was not just good economics; it was "a necessary condition for political freedom." Of course, it wasn't enough, Friedman added, citing prewar fascist Germany.

Free markets favored individual choice and creativity. "The great advances of civilization," he wrote, "have never come from centralized government." But Friedman was not indifferent to societies' hopes to improve themselves through government, and his ideas often aimed to reconcile these goals with maximum individual choice. We have adopted--or are still debating--many of his plans: school vouchers (he believed public schools perform poorly because they are monopolies); the negative income tax (Friedman proposed substituting direct payments to the poor for the "rag bag" of existing government services--the idea partially inspired today's "earned income tax credit," providing subsidies for low-income workers); the all-volunteer military, created in 1973; and personal accounts for Social Security.

Friedman, winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in economics, made three huge scholarly contributions. First, he helped explain the Great Depression. Until the pub-lication in 1963 of "A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960," co-written with Anna Schwartz, the Depression was cast as an extreme example of capitalism's instability. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Man of Ideas in the Arena; Milton Friedman, 1912-2006
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.