Andrew Norton alterts me to the fact that Milton Friedman died several hours ago. His Wikipedia biography and a long New York Times obituary provide more background. (Friedman was 94, so the NYT has clearly had plenty of time to polish up the obit.)
When I first came to economics, I could see nothing in Friedman to admire. My initial impression was that of a scorched-earth economist who lacked nuance, and had no scruples about meeting with Pinochet after he’d overthrown Chile’sÂ elected government. His singleminded monetarism often flew in the face of facts. AsÂ Robert Solow once said: “Everything reminds Milton of the money supply. Well, everything reminds me of sex, but I keep it out of my papers.”
But learning more economics (and maybe getting a bit older), has mellowed my views. I still don’t agree with much of what Friedman stood for, but he’s given us incredibly important ideas. Two of my favourite policies – the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) and the Earned Income Tax Credit – have their genesis in Friedman’s thinking. He may not have been left, but he was often right.
Update: Alex Millmow points me to his account of Friedman’s 1975 visit to Australia (coauthored with Jerry Courvisanos).Â More too from Don Arthur, Jason Soon, John Quiggin, Harry Clarke, Greg Mankiw, Tyler Cowen, Alex Tabarrok, Steve Levitt, Larry Summers, and probably just about every other economist in and out of the blogosphere.
Further update:Â Bryan CaplanÂ quotes what Ben Bernanke told Milton Friedman on his 90th birthday:
Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.