Milton Friedman : biography

July 31, 1912 - November 16, 2006

Friedman was also known for his work on the consumption function, the permanent income hypothesis (1957), which Friedman himself referred to as his best scientific work. This work contended that rational consumers would spend a proportional amount of what they perceived to be their permanent income. Windfall gains would mostly be saved. Tax reductions likewise, as rational consumers would predict that taxes would have to increase later to balance public finances. Other important contributions include his critique of the Phillips curve and the concept of the natural rate of unemployment (1968). This critique associated his name, together with that of Edmund Phelps, with the insight that a government that brings about greater inflation cannot permanently reduce unemployment by doing so. Unemployment may be temporarily lower, if the inflation is a surprise, but in the long run unemployment will be determined by the frictions and imperfections of the labor market.

Friedman's essay "The Methodology of Positive Economics" (1953) provided the epistemological pattern for his own subsequent research and to a degree that of the Chicago School. There he argued that economics as science should be free of value judgments for it to be objective. Moreover, a useful economic theory should be judged not by its descriptive realism but by its simplicity and fruitfulness as an engine of prediction. That is, students should measure the accuracy of its predictions, rather than the 'soundness of its assumptions'. His argument was part of an ongoing debate among such statisticians as Jerzy Neyman, Leonard Savage, and Ronald Fisher.David Teira, "Milton Friedman, the Statistical Methodologist," History of Political Economy (2007) 39#3 pp 511–527,


One of his most famous contributions to statistics is sequential sampling. Friedman did statistical work at the Division of War Research at Columbia. He and his colleagues came up with a sampling technique, known as sequential sampling, which became, in the words of The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 'the standard analysis of quality control inspection.' The dictionary adds: 'Like many of Friedman’s contributions, in retrospect it seems remarkably simple and obvious to apply basic economic ideas to quality control; that however is a measure of his genius.'"


In 1977, at the age of 65, Friedman retired from the University of Chicago after teaching there for 30 years. He and his wife moved to San Francisco where he became a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. From 1977 on, he was affiliated with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. During the same year, Friedman was approached by the and asked to create a television program presenting his economic and social philosophy.

The Friedmans worked on this project for the next three years, and during 1980, the ten-part series, titled Free to Choose, was broadcast by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). The companion book to the series (co-authored by Milton and his wife, Rose Friedman), also titled Free To Choose, was the bestselling nonfiction book of 1980 and has since been translated into 14 foreign languages.

Friedman served as an unofficial adviser to Ronald Reagan during his 1980 presidential campaign, and then served on the President's Economic Policy Advisory Board for the rest of the Reagan Administration. In 1988 he received the National Medal of Science and Reagan honored him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Milton Friedman is known now as one of the most influential economists of the 20th century. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Friedman continued to write editorials and appear on television. He made several visits to Eastern Europe and to China, where he also advised governments. He was also for many years a Trustee of the Philadelphia Society.

Public policy positions

Federal Reserve

Friedman believed that if the money supply was to be centrally controlled (as by the Federal Reserve) that the preferable way to do it would be with a mechanical system that would keep the quantity of money increasing at a steady rate. However, instead of government involvement at all, he was open to a "real," non-government, gold standard where money is produced by the private market: "A real gold standard is thoroughly consistent with [classical] liberal principles and I, for one, am entirely in favor of measures promoting its development." He did however add this caveat, "Let me emphasize that this note is not a plea for a return to a gold standard.... I regard a return to a gold standard as neither desirable nor feasible—with the one exception that it might become feasible if the doomsday predictions of hyperinflation under our present system should prove correct."Richard M. Ebeling.Monetary Central Planning and the State, Part 27: Milton Friedman's Second Thoughts on the Costs of Paper Money He said the reason that it was not feasible was because "there is essentially no government in the world that is willing to surrender control over its domestic monetary policy." However, it could be done if "you could re-establish a world in which government's budget accounted for 10 percent of the national income, in which laissez-faire reigned, in which governments did not interfere with economic activities and in which full employment policies had been relegated to the dustbin..."

Living octopus

Living octopus

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