Milton Friedman : biography

July 31, 1912 - November 16, 2006

In 1932 Friedman graduated from Rutgers University, the state university in New Jersey, where he specialized in mathematics and initially intended to become an actuary. During his time at Rutgers, Friedman became influenced by two economics professors, Arthur F. Burns and Homer Jones, who convinced him that modern economics could help end the Great Depression.

After graduating from Rutgers, Friedman was offered two scholarships to do graduate work: one in mathematics at Brown University and the other in Economics at the University of Chicago. Friedman chose the latter, thus earning an M.A. in 1933. He was strongly influenced by Jacob Viner, Frank Knight, and Henry Simons. It was at Chicago that Friedman met his future wife, economist Rose Director. During 1933–34 he had a fellowship at Columbia University, where he studied statistics with renowned statistician and economist Harold Hotelling. He was back in Chicago for 1934–35, spending the year working as a research assistant for Henry Schultz, who was then working on Theory and Measurement of Demand. That year, Friedman formed what would prove to be lifelong friendships with George Stigler and W. Allen Wallis.Ebenstein, Milton Friedman: a biography (2007) pp 13–30

Scholarly contributions


Friedman was best known for reviving interest in the money supply as a determinant of the nominal value of output, that is, the quantity theory of money. Monetarism is the set of views associated with modern quantity theory. Its origins can be traced back to the 16th-century School of Salamanca or even further; however, Friedman's contribution is largely responsible for its modern popularization. He co-authored, with Anna Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States (1963), which was an examination of the role of the money supply and economic activity in the U.S. history. A striking conclusion of their research was regarding the way in which money supply fluctuations are contributing to economic fluctuations. Several regression studies with David Meiselman during the 1960s suggested the primacy of the money supply over investment and government spending in determining consumption and output. These challenged a prevailing but largely untested view on their relative importance. Friedman's empirical research and some theory supported the conclusion that the short-run effect of a change of the money supply was primarily on output but that the longer-run effect was primarily on the price level.

Friedman was the main proponent of the monetarist school of economics. He maintained that there is a close and stable association between price inflation and the money supply, mainly that price inflation should be regulated with monetary deflation and price deflation with monetary inflation. He famously quipped that price deflation can be fought by "dropping money out of a helicopter."

Friedman's arguments were designed to counter popular claims that price inflation at the time was the result of increases in the price of oil, or increases in wages: as he wrote,

Friedman rejected the use of fiscal policy as a tool of demand management; and he held that the government's role in the guidance of the economy should be restricted severely. Friedman wrote extensively on the Great Depression, which he termed the Great Contraction, arguing that it had been caused by an ordinary financial shock whose duration and seriousness were greatly increased by the subsequent contraction of the money supply caused by the misguided policies of the directors of the Federal Reserve.

Friedman also argued for the cessation of government intervention in currency markets, thereby spawning an enormous literature on the subject, as well as promoting the practice of freely floating exchange rates. His close friend George Stigler explained, "As is customary in science, he did not win a full victory, in part because research was directed along different lines by the theory of rational expectations, a newer approach developed by Robert Lucas, also at the University of Chicago."

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine