Milton Friedman, 1912–2006: Polemicist, scholar, and giant of twentieth–century economics
& Howard R. Vane
Published: December 2006
Milton Friedman is best known as the founding father and leading exponent of the monetarist school of macroeconomic thought, and for championing the case for the efficacy of free markets in a wide variety of contexts. Without doubt, Friedman’s ideas have influenced the research agenda of a whole generation of economists as well as those who influence public policy throughout the world. Friedman’s extraordinary gifts of communicating complicated ideas allowed him to become one of the very few economists who are well known outside the economics profession. As well as his many scientific contributions, Friedman sought to communicate his views on a wide range of issues to non-economists. His gift for writing about topics in applied economics, accessible to a mass audience, established Friedman as one of the world’s most famous economists. Throughout his professional academic life, because of his high public profile, the ideas of Milton Friedman certainly aroused strong reactions from both opponents and supporters, and, until very recently, with respect to many of his ideas, he swam against a strong and extremely hostile tide of opinion. However, whatever view is held about Friedman’s libertarian political and economic philosophy, most commentators would agree that his recent passing brings to an end the life of the last great economist guru of the twentieth century. In this paper, Brian Snowdon and Howard Vane review his most influential contributions to economic analysis and political economy.