Milton Friedman, the grand gentleman of libertarianism, passed away a short while ago. Dr. Friedman was born July 31, 1912 and was 94 years of age. Dr. Friedman was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in economic sciences in 1976. But he was most widely known as a great popularizer of classical liberal ideas through his television series and book Free to Choose, which he co-authored with wife Rose, who survives him.
Dr. Friedman was the son of Jewish immigrants from what is today the Ukraine. He was educated at Rutgers University and the University of Chicago, an institution that practically became synonymous with his name because of his 30 year teaching career there. He earned his Ph.D. in 1946 from Columbia University.
Friedman, with Dr. Anna Schwartz, authored A Monetary History of the United States which argued that the Great Depression was the result of bungled policies by the American Federal Reserve Board. On the occasion of his 90th birthday then Fed official, now Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke quipped to Friedman: "Regarding the Great Depression. You're right, we did it. We're very sorry."
Dr. Friedman was not just an advocate of economic freedom. He was an advocate of freedom across the board. He was a vocal advocate of the legalization of drugs arguing that the regulations only made the harm greater and did little to protect people. As an adviser to Richard Nixon, he was a major proponent of abolishing military conscription in the United States.
He also advocated school vouchers, an idea he put forward in his book Capitalism and Freedom in 1962. To further promote the idea of competition in the field of education, he established the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation. He was a president of the American Economic Association and a founding member and president of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international organization of free market academics.
In 1988 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also described his political views as libertarian. He said: "I think the term classical liberal is also equally applicable. I don't really care very much what I'm called. I'm much more interested in having people thinking about the ideas, rather than the person."
Dr. Friedman is survived by his wife of 68 years, Rose, his daughter Janet, his son David, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He is also survived by the many people who came to love and admire him for his great advocacy of individual freedom. He was one of the greatest lights of liberty to ever shine in the world. We will sadly miss him.