Friedman and Samuelson

by Russ Roberts on December 15, 2009

in Hubris and humility, Uncategorized

In this post by David Henderson on Samuelson’s passing, a commenter, gnat, says:

In “Animal Spirits” Akeroff quotes Samuelson as saying that Friedman had a point but often overstated it like a boy who learned how to spell the word banana but did not know where to stop.

I remember a similar quote attributed to Solow, referring to Friedman’s obsession with the money supply, that he (Solow) liked sex but he didn’t talk about it all the time. Or something like that.

I think Samuelson and Solow doth joke too much. There is a jeering, disdainful, immature element in both of those “jokes.” I wonder if Friedman was deeply discomfiting to them. He was a relentless critic of what underpinned their worldviews. He remade the profession in his own image and helped make “use markets” the default, at least for a while. He created what Dan Klein calls the “presumption of liberty.” Their lack of respect for someone who had been in the intellectual wilderness and who triumphed by virtue of his scholarship and his passion speaks volumes.

UPDATE: Pingry points out in the comments the correct Solow story:

Milton Friedman presented a paper at a conference, after which Robert Solow commented: “Another difference between Milton and myself is that everything reminds Milton of the money supply; well, everything reminds me of sex, but I try to keep it out of my papers.”

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