Friday, December 01, 2006

The Most Influential Person You've Never Heard Of?

This is heavy stuff for a weekend, I know. But I hate to let the death of Milton Friedman without comment. Even though the American economy is still largely socialistic, it would be far more so were it not for Friedman's influence. Thomas Sowell wrote a respectful tribute that included this high praise:
Milton Friedman may well have been the most important economist of the 20th century, even if John Maynard Keynes was the most famous. No small part of Friedman’s achievement was rescuing economics from the pervasive and virtually unquestioned Keynesian orthodoxy that reigned in many places.

Ironically, Friedman began his career as a believer in both Keynesian economics and in the liberals’ vision of the world with which it was so compatible. Yet, in the end, no one did more to dethrone both. It is doubtful whether Ronald Reagan could have been elected president in 1980 without the changes in public opinion produced by Friedman’s work in the previous decades.
Just after Friedman's death I caught part of a rerun of his interview from a couple years ago on PBS' Charlie Rose show. At that point he was already into his 90's but was more sharp and articulate than I could ever hope to be.

Friedman made a point I've wondered about for a few years: The best arrangement of power for a balanced federal budget is a Democratic president and a Republican-controlled Congress. (He didn't say anything about how it works out for judicial appointments.) I wonder if that makes what we're about to have the worst. Take it for what it's worth.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

thanks for that uplifting thought at the start of advent...btw I chose to see Deck the Halls instead of another Christmas movie...due to my coma like state, I can only tell you DO NOT see that movie.

Keith said...

What are you doing talking about and appreciating a social, cultural, and economic figure like Friedman? Come on man, trying to change things through economics is not the answer. Guys like Friedman should have gone to seminary to use their great intellect for something that really matters :)