Influential Economist Friedman Has Died in California, at Age 94
By GREG IP
Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman, one of the most influential economists of the last century and a free-market champion, died today. He was 94.
Mr. Friedman died of heart failure at his home in San Francisco, his daughter, Janet Martel, said.
Mr. Friedman's death was also announced at a conference of the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington by the institute's vice president of academic affairs, James A. Dorn. The audience of academics and policy makers observed a moment of silence in
Mr. Friedman was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1976. He long championed the cause of political and economic freedom and the links between the two. He originated, or was associated with, many breakthroughs in economics since the 1950s. He is best known for explaining the role of the money supply in economic and inflation fluctuations.
He also developed, with this year's Nobel Prize winner in economics, Edmund Phelps, the theory in the 1960s that policy makers couldn't achieve a permanent tradeoff between lower unemployment and higher inflation, and that efforts to do so would simply result in the same unemployment rate and higher inflation, a view that holds sway at major central banks today, including the Fed.
Mr. Friedman also exercised extraordinary influence not just through his academic work but also through his advice to politicians and his many popular books, such as "Capitalism and Freedom" in 1962 and "Free to Choose," with Rose Friedman, in 1980, which was both a television series and a book.
Mr. Friedman had enormous impact on economic policy though he never had a formal job in a government administration after World War II. His opposition helped lead to the end of the draft. He was an adviser to President Ronald Reagan. He was also closely associated with school vouchers and other applications of free market principles to policy issues.
In commentaries in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Friedman praised the policies of President Reagan and former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan. Earlier this year, Mr. Friedman wrote that Mr. Greenspan's "performance has indeed been remarkable. There is no other period of comparable length in which the Federal Reserve System has performed so well. It is more than a difference of degree; it approaches a difference of kind." (See the commentary.)
Mr. Friedman is survived by his wife Rose, his son David and daughter Janet, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren. The Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation said in a statement that, in accordance with his wishes, Mr. Friedman's body will be cremated and the ashes scattered over San Francisco Bay and no service will be held at this time. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers or gifts, contributions be made in his honor to the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation. (Read the foundation's statement.)
Born in New York City
Born in New York City on July 31, 1912, Mr. Friedman began developing his economic theories during the Great Depression when President Franklin D. Roosevelt based his New Deal on the ideas of Britain's John Maynard Keynes, the most influential economist of the time.
Mr. Keynes argued that the government should intervene in economic affairs to avoid depressions by increasing spending and controlling interest rates. (When asked in 2004 by The Wall Street Journal to name the most important economist of the 20th century besides himself, Mr. Friedman named Mr. Keynes. Read the full Q&A.)
Mr. Friedman graduated from Rutgers University in 1932 and earned his master's degree the following year at the University of Chicago. After working for the National Resources Commission in Washington from 1935 to 1937, Mr. Friedman was a member of the staff of the National Bureau of Economics Research in New York from 1937 to 1945 and received his doctorate from Columbia University in 1946. After World War II, he
taught at the University of Minnesota, then returned to the University of Chicago. He became a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in 1977.
"Most Americans have no idea what the science of economics is about. Milton Friedman made economic thought more accessible to more people, and he did it in a simple, straight-forward way that avoided politics and cut to the heart of free market capitalism."
Mr. Friedman married Rose Director in 1938. They had two children, Janet and David, and Rose was co-author of some of his books.
Among his most famous books were: "Price Theory," 1962 (with Rose Friedman); "Capitalism and Freedom," 1962; "An Economist's Protest," 1972; "There Is No Such Thing As a Free Lunch," 1975; and "Free to Choose," 1979, co-authored with his wife. "Free to Choose" also was a series on the Public Broadcasting Service.
The producer of that series, Bob Chitester, told the University of Chicago that Mr. Friedman's "insatiable curiosity" made him a different kind of thinker. "He set forth ideas without regard to their popularity or acceptability. He has been equally tough on himself and others in his search for tools of analysis that consistently and
accurately predict outcomes in both micro and macro economics. And he has never compromised the resulting analysis to please those in power. Such courage is essential to the survival of a free society," Mr. Chitester said.
Mr. Chitester's new biography of Mr. Friedman, titled "The Power of Choice," will air on PBS in late January.
Mr. Friedman wrote columns for Newsweek from 1966 to 1983 and was one of the few economists to bridge the gap between academia and the public. He involved himself in political campaigns, supporting Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Richard Nixon in 1968. He served on President Nixon's commission for an all-volunteer Army in 1969 and 1970.
In an interview with Playboy magazine in 1973, later republished in a collection of his essays titled "Bright Promises, Dismal Performance," Mr. Friedman said he was encouraged by an apparent trend away from government control.
"There are faint stirrings and hopeful signs," he said. "Even some of the intellectuals who were most strongly drawn to the New Deal in the 30s are rethinking their positions, dabbling just a little with free-market principles. They're moving slowly and taking each step as though they were exploring a virgin continent. But it's not dangerous. Some of us have lived here quite comfortably all along."
Mr. Friedman, whose wit made him a popular guest on radio and television shows, appeared to enjoy sparring with other economists.
In the Playboy interview, he referred to his disagreement with John Kenneth Galbraith, who endorsed wage and price controls. When Mr. Nixon went against Mr. Friedman's advice and imposed the controls in an effort to slow inflation, Mr. Friedman said he wrote a note to Mr. Galbraith.
"You must be as chagrined as I am to have Nixon for your disciple," Mr. Friedman wrote. Mr. Galbraith didn't reply, Mr. Friedman said.
--The Associated Press contributed to this article.