Milton Friedman: A Biographical Sketch

Milton Friedman was perhaps the greatest American Economist of the 20th century. His observations, books, technical research papers, television show, and even his private conversations had a huge impact on policy and thought in the United States and throughout the world.

He basically popularized the notion that inflation could be controlled by Federal Reserve policy. He showed that tax-reduction and reducing government influence in the markets would benefit the economy and the mass of the participants in that economy. The Wall Street Journal, in his obituary even blared in a headline that "Friedman Reshaped Capitalism".

He advised many of the leading politicians of his day, including Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. His popular books include "Capitalism and Freedom" (1962) and "Free to Choose" (1980). The latter book was made into a Public Television Series. He won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1976 for his work in "explaining the role of the money supply in economic and inflation fluctuations."

Milton Friedman was born in 1912 in New York City to a couple who had immigrated Austria-Hungary. He graduated from Rutgers University in 1932 and had thought for a time that he wanted to be an actuary, but during World War II he worked on wartime tax policy at the Treasury Department and was soon hired on at the University of Chicago as a Professor. The University of Chicago became a hotbed of advocates of free market capitalism, inspired by von Mises and von Heyek (founders of the Austrian school of economics). Milton Friedman and such men as Frank Knight formed what would become known as the Chicago School. Ideas of the Chicago School went directly against the Keynesian approach which was prevalent during and after World War II. Friedman helped to show that Keynesian government interference in the economy tends to have a debilitating effect on that economy and the people meant to benefit by the interference.

Milton Friedman sparked controversy during the 1970s when he advised the dictatorship of Chile ruled by Pinochet on economic matters, turning Chile into one of the most advanced and beneficial economies in all of South America.

Mr. Freidman died at age 94 in 2006 of heart failure.


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