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Happy 99th Birthday, Milton Friedman

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.