The great Milton Friedman was interviewed on last night's (December 26, 2005) broadcast of the Charlie Rose Show. At 93, Friedman is still the best public spokesperson for the classical liberal position in economics. It is simply amazing how Friedman's mind remains sharp and his personality so charming --- whether in addressing drug legalization or school vouchers, facts are his weapons, and compasion for the least advantaged in our society is his stated policy goal.
Pushed at one point in the conversation about Friedman's apparent victory in the battle of idea with John Kenneth Galbraith and other public intellectuals on the left, Friedman stated clearly that there is little doubt that classical liberalism has won the battle of ideas, but he quickly pointed out that classical liberalism has not yet won the battle of practice.
Humble in his presentation, friendly in his disposition, and obviously in possession of the courage of his convinction, Friedman remains the role model for any intellectual on the right.
Some gems from the interview:
On his legacy: He has lived two separate lives, a technical economist and a public intellectual and he hopes that there two aspects of his career will be judged separately. And he also hopes that he will be judged to have been someone who advanced human freedom.
On politics: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were the most important political figures for economic freedom. Richard Nixon had the highest IQ, but Friedman considered him a man who viewed Milton Friedman's principles as his preferences. Nixon did not have princples per se, and thus his preferences were switched whenever the "price" was deemed to be too high. Friedman described himself as a Republican (with a capital R) and a libertarian (with a small l).
On what he has learned: Friedman when pressed on what policy position has he had to change his view on responded that he used to believe in antitrust, but now holds the position that antitrust is anti-competitive and that they only significant source of monopoly power in an economy results from government creation and protection of monopolistic power by businesses.
Here is a paper I wrote on the influence of Milton Friedman in East and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union for a conference and volume honoring Milton and Rose Friedman.
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