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Milton Friedman: A tribute to a man of reason

August 1, 2011

Today would have been economist Milton Friedman‘s 99th birthday. Reason tv came out with an excellent short piece with an accompanying video of about the late, great professor. It is well worth the read, and I recommend both the short video and the article.

Reason TV Milton Friedman Tribute

As the article explains, It would be difficult to even list all Friedman’s accomplishments, let alone appreciate them fully. His influence can be seen across the globe, from the Chicago school of economics, to Chile and Iceland. The Reason piece jumps from a competent explanation of who Milton Friedman was to some real insight into what it was about him that made him so unique, the characteristics that allow him to continue to resonate decades after his personal influence was at its peak:

[Friedman’s] ultimate contribution to freedom and liberty is found less in any of the specific argument he made and more in the ways he made them. Friedman provided an all-too-rare example of a public intellectual who was scrupulously honest, forthright, and fair in every debate he entered… he always argued in good faith, admitted when he was wrong, and enlarged the circle of debate.

Long after some of his technical points and social insights have been superseded, that commitment to relentless inquiry and search for truth wherever it takes us will survive.

Rarely, if ever, did the cherubic professor lose his temper. And never was he seen to resort to ad hominem attack. He always kept his focus on the debate at hand, and even when he strongly disagreed with someone, he always remembered that they were not holding their belief out of malice or bad intentions. This recognition on Friedman’s part, and his strict adherence to civility and collegial debate allowed him to have meaningful discourse that causes the debates seen on cable news shows and among elected officials today pale in comparison. If we can all look to Professor Friedman, perhaps we can further the endless search for truth in politics.

For good measure, here is a great video of a Q&A session with Milton Friedman at Cornell in 1978 with a less than sympathetic crowd, and he performs admirably, as always. Happy Birthday Milton, the time the world had with you wasn’t nearly enough.

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