The Death of Economist Milton Friedman

This is very strange and sad.

On November 5th, I wrote my initial post about Milton Friedman, based on a San Jose Mercury News interview I read that weekend. In it, Friedman discusses his thoughts on education, health care, and Iraq.

Milton Friedman has now passed away today, eleven days later. There is really nice coverage of his death on the Business Week website. A sample:

More than anyone else, Milton Friedman was responsible for challenging the worldview of British economist John Maynard Keynes, who believed in the power of government to guide and stimulate economic growth. As an alternative to Keynesianism, he put forth a more laissez-faire philosophy known as monetarism—the doctrine that the best thing the government can do is supply the economy with the money it needs and stand aside.

Friedman blamed inflation on tinkering by governments and central banks. Along with Edmund Phelps of Columbia University, who won the 2006 Nobel prize, Friedman showed that central banks can’t buy permanently lower unemployment with slightly higher inflation. Wrote Friedman: “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon, in the sense that it cannot occur without a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output.”

One of the things I learned from responses to my original post is that far more people disagreed with Milton Friedman than who had actually read or understood his work. I think I’m going to re-read some of the material I have on my shelf from him this weekend.

Paul Kedrosky’s comments on his blog sum up my feelings as well:

Whatever your views on Friedman’s economics and/or politics, he was a giant of an intellectual figure, a provocative, thoughtful, and maddening figure, about whom the least you can say is that his influence and reputation will outlive all of us.

I want to take this opportunity to just say thank you to Mr. Friedman for his contributions to my understanding of economics.