Wednesday, August 1, 2012

We're In Milton Friedman's World

by Timothy B. Lee


July 31, 2012

The web is awash in well-deserved tributes to Milton Friedman on what would have been his one hundredth birthday. Friedman’s Free to Choose was one of the first books on public policy I read in high school, and it has had an immense effect on how I view the world.

Some of Friedman’s policy proposals, such as school vouchers and drug legalization, are still hotly debated today. But I think the most important measure of a thinker’s influence are his once-controversial ideas that are now considered so obvious that no one seriously disputes them. I’ve recently been reading a collection of Friedman’s Newsweek columns from the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time when he was at the peak of his fame and influence. Among the proposals he wrote about most frequently were: severing the link to gold and letting the dollar float, fighting inflation by reducing the growth of the money supply, ending the draft, abolishing wage and price controls, and cutting taxes.

Most of these proposals were adopted by the end of the 1970s. All are still practiced today. But more remarkably, they’re all now considered so obviously correct that few people seriously advocate returning to the policies of the 1970s.