Happy 99th Birthday, Milton Friedman

by Don Boudreaux on July 31, 2011

in Civil Society, Dinner Table Economics, Economics

During the second semester of my freshman year of college (Spring 1977) – the semester in which I was first exposed to economics – Bill Field (then a professor of economics at my alma mater, Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA) recommended that I read the writings of Milton Friedman.  Of course, as an 18-year old who’d read very little of anything beyond the sports pages of the Times-Picayune (and, back then, also the sports pages of the States-Item), I’d never heard of Milton Friedman.

“Dr. Field” – as I’d called Bill for many years – let me borrow his copy of Friedman’s collection of Newsweek columns, An Economist’s Protest.  I was blown away by the logic, the sensibleness, and the passion channeled toward the goal of maximum human dignity.

That summer, I subscribed to Newsweek simply to get Friedman’s columns (which, if I recall correctly, appeared in every third issue).  (I read Paul Samuelson’s Newsweek columns, too, of course; they left me cold.)  I believe that the first column of Friedman’s that I read from an actual issue of Newsweek was the one in the July 4, 1977 issue.  Its title is “Fair versus Free.”  (Here’s a reprint.)  It remains today just as I recall it from 34 years ago: powerful and compelling.  From it I extract today’s Quotation of the Day:

When “fairness” replaces “freedom,” all our liberties are in danger. In Walden, Thoreau says: “If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.” That is the way I feel when I hear my “servants” in Washington assuring me of the “fairness” of their edicts.


45 comments    Share Share    Print    Email

Previous post:

Next post: