Milton Friedman’s work, as well as that of his colleagues, students and predecessors (going back to Adam Smith) continues to make the world a better place—especially for the world’s poorest people. Gary Becker nicely summed this up.
Yet today there are loud voices in support of an expanded role for government. These are policies that have failed time and again; policies that diminish the capacity for human fulfillment and well-being; policies that put individuals in subservience to the state; policies that leech away our inalienable right to be free to choose. We have to make our voices heard again.
It was Professor Friedman's concern about the preponderance of such policies that led him to undertake the production of the Free To Choose television series in 1977.
“Bob Chitester was able to persuade me, because I feel so strongly that America is at a critical point in its history. For the past fifty years, we have been moving away from the fundamental principles that have made this a great country.”
Milton Friedman would certainly feel similarly about the present challenge to those fundamental principles.
It is time to raise the banner of liberty again. But how?
For Professor Friedman, ideas were only as good as analysis. That’s why it’s important when raising freedom’s banner to communicate that winning ideas are proven through careful research and analysis, not wishful thinking. At Milton’s 90th birthday, George Shultz explained this with a flourish.
Friedman’s conception of the permanent-income theory of consumption and his work on the natural rate of unemployment, on inflation and monetary policy, on occupational licensing and on the gold standard pushed economics to new heights of understanding. Simultaneously, Friedman (perhaps more than any other thinker) had the ability to help us all understand the world around us. As Tom Sowell observed:
“Milton Friedman was one of the very few intellectuals with both genius and common sense. He could express himself at the highest analytical levels to his fellow economists in academic publications and still write popular books such as Capitalism and Freedom and Free To Choose that could be understood by people who knew nothing about economics. Indeed, his television series, Free to Choose, was readily understandable even by people who don't read books.”
Milton and his wife, Rose, collaborated on the TV series and the book based on the TV series. Millions watched the programs and purchased the book—in over 20 languages.
From research, to public policy recommendations, including a celebration of the right of individuals to choose their own path in life, we must put renewed energy into preserving and extending the winning ideas of freedom.
2012 is here. People the world over are planning events, activities, productions, publications and collaborations to help celebrate. Share your plans with us, and we’ll post them on this site. Regularly check the Calendar of Events to learn what others are doing.
It is not too late. Together we can build a worldwide intellectual tsunami that sweeps away the continuing efforts to restrain, even enslave, the human spirit. While any individual initiative may seem small, the combined effort will leave an indelible mark on generations to come. We will make the 21st century Milton Friedman’s Century and the century of all those who, like him, courageously advanced the winning ideas of freedom.
At the conclusion of The Power of Choice, Professor Friedman reflects on the possible impact of his work:
Now it’s our turn.
Free To Choose Network