Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

Dare I call him Uncle Miltie?

No. No, I dare not.

If Milton Friedman were alive today — and there was never a time when he was more needed — he would be one hundred years old. He was born on July 31, 1912. But Professor Friedman’s death at age 94 deprived the nation of one of those rare thinkers who had both genius and common sense.

Although Milton Friedman became someone regarded as a conservative icon, he considered himself a liberal in the original sense of the word — someone who believes in the liberty of the individual, free of government intrusions. Far from trying to conserve things as they are, he wrote a book titled “Tyranny of the Status Quo.”

Milton Friedman proposed radical changes in policies and institution ranging from the public schools to the Federal Reserve. It is liberals who want to conserve and expand the welfare state.

As a student of Professor Friedman back in 1960, I was struck by two things — his tough grading standards and the fact that he had a black secretary. This was years before affirmative action. People on the left exhibit blacks as mascots. But I never heard Milton Friedman say that he had a black secretary, though she was with him for decades. Both his grading standards and his refusal to try to be politically correct increased my respect for him. 

It’s always a good time to rerun this great vid, and Sowell’s column on the centenary of Friedman’s birth provides a perfect excuse:



Good stuff. Hope he’s not spinning in his grave so fast as to disturb his well-earned rest too badly. Sowell is right: we miss him now more than ever.

Update! More from Stephen Moore:

It’s a tragedy that Milton Friedman—born 100 years ago on July 31—did not live long enough to combat the big-government ideas that have formed the core of Obamanomics. It’s perhaps more tragic that our current president, who attended the University of Chicago where Friedman taught for decades, never fell under the influence of the world’s greatest champion of the free market. Imagine how much better things would have turned out, for Mr. Obama and the country.

Ain’t THAT the damned truth.

Friedman stood unfailingly and heroically with the little guy against the state. He used to marvel that the intellectual left, which claims to espouse “power to the people,” so often cheers as states suppress individual rights.

While he questioned almost every statist orthodoxy, he fearlessly gored sacred cows of both political parties. He was the first scholar to sound the alarm on the rotten deal of Social Security for young workers—forced to pay into a system that will never give back as much as they could have accumulated on their own. He questioned the need for occupational licenses—which he lambasted as barriers to entry—for everything from driving a cab to passing the bar to be an attorney, or getting an M.D. to practice medicine.

He loved turning the intellectual tables on liberals by making the case that regulation often does more harm than good. His favorite example was the Food and Drug Administration, whose regulations routinely delay the introduction of lifesaving drugs. “When the FDA boasts a new drug will save 10,000 lives a year,” he would ask, “how many lives were lost because it didn’t let the drug on the market last year?”

He supported drug legalization (much to the dismay of supporters on the right) and was particularly proud to be an influential voice in ending the military draft in the 1970s. When his critics argued that he favored a military of mercenaries, he would retort: “If you insist on calling our volunteer soldiers ‘mercenaries,’ I will call those who you want drafted into service involuntarily ‘slaves.'”

Heh. Good one, and there was plenty more where that came from too. Be sure to read all of this one, gang; the last word is Friedman’s, and it’s priceless. Milton, wherever you are now, you should know that you’re sorely missed here.

A deep well update! The more you look for, the more you find:

He was unstinting in his criticism, but he was a famously happy warrior. His wit was one of his great pedagogical tools. Inspecting a government-run canal-building project in Asia, he noted that the workers were using shovels and wheelbarrows instead of bulldozers and earth-moving equipment, and was informed by his guide that using shovels meant more jobs for the workers. “Then why not use spoons?” Friedman asked.

Another one you’ll want to read all of.

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3 thoughts on “Dare I call him Uncle Miltie?

  1. Really? It shows up for me. Which means…well, nothing, really. I’ll see if I can find another source for it; I posted on it a long time ago. It’s the Phil Donahue interview, wherein Friedman schools ol’ Phil to within an inch of his life.

  2. Okay, Andrew, try that one on for size. If it doesn’t work for ya, let me know and I’ll go find another. It really is too good to miss.

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