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Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Sad Day

This is very sad news:

Influential Economist Friedman Dies at 94, by Greg Ip, WSJ: Nobel prize winner Milton Friedman, one of the most influential economists of the last century, died today. He was 94.

Mr. Friedman died of heart failure after being taken to hospital near his home in San Francisco, his daughter, Janet Martell, said today. His wife Rose Friedman, who co-authored many of his books, survives him.

Mr. Friedman's death was also announced at a conference of the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington by the institute's vice president of academic affairs, James A. Dorn. The audience of academics and policy makers observed several moments of silence in observance.

Mr. Friedman was awarded the Nobel prize in 1976. He has long championed the cause of political and economic freedom and the links between the two. He has originated, or been associated with, many breakthroughs in economics since the 1950s. He is best known for explaining the role of the money supply in economic and inflation fluctuations. He also, with this year's Nobel prize winner Edmund Phelps, developed the theory in the 1960s that policy makers couldn't achieve a permanent tradeoff between lower unemployment and higher inflation, and that efforts to do so would simply result in the same unemployment rate and higher inflation, a view that holds sway at major central banks today, including the Fed.

Mr. Friedman also exercised extraordinary influence not just through his academic work but through his advice to politicians and his many popular books, such as Capitalism and Freedom in 1962 and Free to Choose, with Rose Friedman, in 1990, which was made into a television series.

Mr. Friedman had enormous impact on economic policy though he never had a formal job in a government administration after World War Two. His opposition helped lead to the end of the draft. He was an adviser to President Ronald Reagan. He has been closely associated with school vouchers and other applications of free market principles to policy issues.

This is my small tribute to Milton Friedman. It is based on an earlier post. This happened many years ago, a few years before I went up for tenure. I had been to a San Francisco Fed conference and, while there, I saw Friedman present his "Plucking model." A few months later, I sent him a paper I had done on the topic. Friedman, with all his fame and all the demands on his time, showed he still had time to help a young assistant professor:

Friedman sent me a long, detailed letter about one of my papers. He liked it and his comments were, of course, insightful and helpful. I'm still surprised that he took the time to write such a long letter, he surely had plenty of other things he could have done with his time. But receiving the letter pretty much out of the blue provided a motivational boost just when I needed it and I'm grateful to him to this day for doing that.

Here's a post explaining his Plucking Model.
Recent interview: The Romance of Economics.
Also, from last month: The End of the Hong Kong Experiment.

Update: The Financial Times looks back (free) at his major accomplishments.

    Posted by on Thursday, November 16, 2006 at 10:20 AM in Economics | Permalink  TrackBack (1)  Comments (30)


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    » In the long run, Milton Friedman is all dead from Marginal Utility

    There are appreciations aplenty of* Rutgers alumnus Milton Friedman in the blogsphere today (Mark Thoma notes the publication of Friedman's possibly-final WSJ editorial from the day after he died); endemic to a person dying and the general de mortuis... [Read More]

    Tracked on Thursday, November 16, 2006 at 11:08 PM


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