PROFESSOR MILTON FRIEDMAN ; Father of Monetarism and Prophet of Laissez-Faire Who Won the 1976 Nobel Prize for Economics
Dalyell, Tam, The Independent (London, England)
Milton Friedman was the father of monetarism and the prophet of laissez-faire eco-nomics. It was his debunking of the eco-nomics of John Maynard Keynes which was a major factor in leading to the free market revolutions in Britain and the United States. By his contribution to consumption theory, to the demand for money and to economics methodology, and to decision-making under uncertainty, he moved the economic consensus decisively to the right. For some commentators, it has not been fanciful to trace the collapse of Communism back to Friedman's teachings.
His great books Capitalism and Freedom (1962) and Free to Choose (1980) will be crucial texts for any economic historian. Friedman participated in almost every major economic policy debate in the last 60 years - on poverty, wage and prices control, competition policy, the economics of discrimination, the economics of healthcare, inflation and floating exchange rates. He may be the last of the great economists to deal with all the major issues of both micro- and macro-economics. By any criteria, he was one of the 20th century's five most insightful and influential economists.
Friedman was above all else a superb expositor of ideas, however unpalatable they might be. He was a wonderful stimulator, not only of students but of the world of economists. Like his ideas or loathe them, he must be in the league of Adam Smith, Malthus, Keynes and John Kenneth Galbraith, the heavyweight of the left as Friedman was the heavyweight of the right.
When, as an undergraduate, I let out to my then lecturer, the formidable Joan Robinson, that I had invited a 42-year-old visiting American professor in Cambridge to tea to meet some of my student friends, she observed, "And what did Mephistopheles say to you?" The truth was that the lilting voice of Milton Friedman had beguiled us all with wit and charm.
In his autobiography, Two Lucky People (1998), written jointly with his wife Rose, Friedman wrote, Joan Robinson was an extremely controversial and remarkable economist, with whom I got along well personally, though we were worlds apart in our views. She had gone on to teach at Cambridge and become one of the leading members of the so-called Cambridge Circus, a group of young disciplines of Keynes who had been closely involved in criticising successive drafts of Keynes's General Theory.
Friedman recalled that a friend had called him one day and reported that Robinson planned to criticise his advocacy of flexible exchange rates in the next lecture in the series that she was giving. The friend suggested that Friedman should attend. So he phoned Robinson and asked if she would mind. She encouraged him to do so.
At the lecture she announced that Friedman was in the audience and that they had different views about flexible exchange rates. She asked him to come to the podium and discuss with her the basis of their disagreement. She said that both were competent technical economists so that their difference did not represent a mistake in logical reasoning, but must reflect differences in their factual assumptions and values and that students would find it instructive to explore those differences. What followed was a wonderful discussion - etched into the minds of all who were fortunate enough to be present.
Fortunate was Cambridge in that year of 1953-54 in their visiting Fulbright lecturer. However Friedman later reflected that he and his wife were dismayed at the cleavage that different political and economic philosophies had created among economists in Cambridge. The dominant group, led by Richard Kahn, Nicholas Kaldor and Joan Robinson, favoured a centrally controlled and planned economy as the only way to solve economic and social problems. A smaller yet important group led by Stanley Dennison and Peter Bauer, Fellows of Caius, the college which had invited the Friedmans, believed …
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Publication information: Article title: PROFESSOR MILTON FRIEDMAN ; Father of Monetarism and Prophet of Laissez-Faire Who Won the 1976 Nobel Prize for Economics. Contributors: Dalyell, Tam - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: November 17, 2006. Page number: 40. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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