Academic journal article American Economist

Memorializing Milton Friedman: A Review of His Major Works, 1912-2006

Academic journal article American Economist

Memorializing Milton Friedman: A Review of His Major Works, 1912-2006

Article excerpt

Introduction

Milton Friedman was born in July 31, 1912, in Brooklyn, NY, to Jewish immigrants, Jeno Saul Friedman and Sarah Ethel Landau, who immigrated to Brooklyn, in 1890, and 1895, respectively. Friedman's parents came from Barehovo, Ukraine, which was formerly part of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. When Milton Friedman was 13 months old his parents moved to Rahway, New Jersey. His education included violin lessons, but he decided he did not have a talent for music. Friedman attended Washington Public School, where he skipped the sixth grade and transferred to Columbus School in the seventh grade, both public schools in Rahway. Ironically, he was nicknamed "Shallow" at that time. Although he attended Hebrew school in the afternoon after public school and was "bar-mitzvahed," Friedman became an agnostic at an early age of twelve.

From 1924-1928, Friedman attended Rahway High School, where his favorite subjects were political science and geometry. Besides that, he participated in sports, won an oratory competition, and almost read out the local public library. He won a scholarship to attend Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, then a private school.

He had "a small purse," so he held two part-time jobs--at a men's department store at $4 a day wage, waiting tables at a restaurant for the wage of a free lunch, and as a copy editor of the student newspaper, while at Rutgers. Friedman said that the opportunity cost of the restaurant job was the only "C" grade he received.

Friedman intended to major in mathematics at Rutgers. He took the actuarial exams, but since he failed some of them, he switched to economics. The economics department at Rutgers had two stalwart economists, Arthur F. Burns, who was writing his Ph.D. at Columbia, and Homer Jones who had been a student of Frank Knight, and completed graduate work at the University of Chicago. Friedman profusely praised them for their teaching, influence and friendship. Friedman mentioned a seminar that Burns gave, which he attended with only one other student. The project was to go over Burns's dissertation: "That seminar imparted standards of scholarship--attention to detail, concern with scrupulous accuracy, checking of sources, and above all, openness to criticism--that have affected the whole of my subsequent scientific work" (Friedman and Friedman 1998, 30). Friedman studied insurance and statistics with Homer Jones. It was Jones who introduced Friedman to the "Chicago view" of individual freedom and the right reform policy. Friedman wrote that "Had Homer not chosen to spend a couple of years teaching at Rutgers, I would almost certainly not have gone to Chicago." He also remarked that besides being at the bottom of the Great Depression, "... becoming an economist seemed more relevant to the burning issues of the day than becoming an applied mathematician or an actuary" (Ibid., 1998, 33-34).

Friedman entered the University of Chicago in 1932. At Chicago he met Rose Director in Jacob Viner's class on "Price and Distribution Theory." Viner's policy was to seat students alphabetically, which put Friedman and Rose Director next to each other. Eight years later, on June 25, 1938, they were married under full religious tradition in New York. At Chicago, Friedman studied History of Economic Thought with Frank Knight, Monetary Theory with Lloyd Mints, and Correlation and Curve Fitting with Henry Schultz. Friedman said: "I took courses enough to have the equivalent of a master's degree in mathematics--which stood me in very good stead in my later career" (Ibid., 1998, 39).

Friedman received his M.A. from the University of Chicago in 1933, and with the encouragement of Schultz, obtained a Fellowship to study with Harold Hotelling at Columbia during 1933-1934, in his second year of graduate work. At Columbia, he studied mathematical statistics with Hotelling, Business Cycles and History of Thought with Westley C. Mitchell, and Pure Theory and Institutions with John Maurice Clark. …

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