Milton Friedman: a brief appreciation
Milton Friedman has died at the age of 94. He made some huge contributions to macroeconomics, notably including his permanent income theory of consumption, which paved the way for the modern life cycle theory and his work on expectations and the Phillips curve.
He was also the most effective advocate for free-market policies since Adam Smith. As has been said several times over at Crooked Timber recently, everyone, and particularly everyone with a leftwing view of the world, should read Capitalism and Freedom at least once. As Mill said, beliefs you hold merely because you haven’t been exposed to the strongest possible critique of those views, aren’t really well-founded. Certainly, my own views were changed in some respects by exposure to Friedman, and where they were not, I was forced to reconsider the basis for my positions.
Friedman was effective in part because he was obviously a person of goodwill. I never had the feeling with him, as with many writers in the free-market line, that he was promoting cynical selfishness, or pushing the interests of business. He genuinely believed that economics was about making people’s lives better and that disagreements among economists were about means rather than ends and could ultimately be resolved by careful attention to the evidence.