Milton Friedman was a U.S. economist and Nobel laureate often known as probably the most influential advocate of free-market capitalism and monetarism within the twentieth century.

At first of his profession within the Nineteen Fifties and Nineteen Sixties, Friedman’s sturdy advocacy of financial coverage over fiscal coverage and free markets over authorities intervention was thought of radical by the established macroeconomics neighborhood, which was dominated by the Keynesian place that fiscal policy—authorities spending and tax insurance policies to affect the economic system—is extra essential than monetary policy—management of the general provide of cash obtainable to banks, customers, and companies—and that an interventionist authorities might reasonable recessions through the use of fiscal coverage to prop up mixture demand, spur consumption, and scale back unemployment.1

Who Was Milton Friedman And What Is Monetarism?
Who Was Milton Friedman And What Is Monetarism?


Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman (1912–2006) was a outstanding American economist and one of the influential figures within the subject of economics through the twentieth century. He was a robust advocate of free-market capitalism and performed a major function in shaping financial and coverage discussions, notably by way of his work on financial principle, macroeconomics, and public coverage.

Some key elements of Milton Friedman’s contributions embody:

  1. Monetarism: Friedman is maybe finest identified for his advocacy of monetarism, which emphasizes the significance of controlling the cash provide as a method to manage inflation and stabilize the economic system. He famously acknowledged, “Inflation is at all times and all over the place a financial phenomenon.”
  2. Free Market Economics: Friedman was a vocal advocate of free-market ideas. He argued that people ought to have the liberty to make their very own financial selections, and that aggressive markets have been environment friendly and customarily led to optimum outcomes.
  3. Function of Authorities: Friedman believed in restricted authorities intervention within the economic system. He argued that authorities ought to have a smaller function in financial affairs and may concentrate on sustaining the soundness of the financial system, implementing property rights, and making certain a secure authorized framework.
  4. Adverse Earnings Tax: Friedman proposed the idea of a unfavourable earnings tax, which would supply monetary help to these with low incomes whereas decreasing the necessity for complicated welfare applications. This concept aimed to alleviate poverty whereas minimizing forms.
  5. College Alternative: Friedman was an early advocate of the idea of college selection, suggesting that oldsters ought to have the liberty to decide on the tutorial establishments for his or her youngsters. He believed that competitors amongst colleges would result in improved schooling high quality.
  6. Capitalism and Freedom: One in every of his most well-known works is the e book “Capitalism and Freedom,” printed in 1962, the place he elaborated on his views about the advantages of particular person liberty and free markets.
  7. Chicago College of Economics: Friedman was related to the Chicago College of Economics, a bunch of economists who emphasised the significance of financial freedom and the function of markets. He taught on the College of Chicago and contributed to the event of its financial theories.
  8. Nobel Memorial Prize: In 1976, Friedman was awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Financial Sciences in Reminiscence of Alfred Nobel (generally known as the Nobel Prize in Economics) for his contributions to consumption evaluation, financial historical past and principle, and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization coverage.

Friedman’s concepts proceed to form financial debates and insurance policies around the globe. Whereas his views have sparked each help and criticism, there isn’t any doubt that his work has left an enduring influence on the sphere of economics and on discussions in regards to the function of presidency and markets in society.



  • Milton Friedman, one of many main financial voices of the latter half of the twentieth century, popularized many financial concepts which can be nonetheless essential as we speak—most significantly, free-market capitalism and monetarism.
  • Friedman’s financial theories grew to become what is named monetarism, which refuted essential components of Keynesian economics, a faculty of thought that was dominant within the first half of the twentieth century.
  • Friedman’s advocacy of monetarism was so efficient that he turned the tide of financial thought away from Keynesian fiscal coverage towards financial coverage centered on management of the cash provide to manage inflation.
  • Over the course of his tutorial profession, Friedman wrote influential articles on the trendy economic system and printed pioneering books that modified the best way economics is taught.

In a direct problem to the Keynesian institution, Friedman and his fellow monetarists held that governments might foster financial stability by controlling the provision of cash that flows into the economic system and permitting the remainder of the market to repair itself (monetarism) and argued for a return to the free market, together with smaller authorities and deregulation in most areas of the economic system (free-market capitalism).1

By the point Friedman died in 2006 on the age of 94, his theories had been so influential that the Wall Road Journal stated that he had “reshaped trendy capitalism” and “supplied the mental foundations for the anti-inflation, tax-cutting, and antigovernment insurance policies” of President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.1


Training and Early Profession

Milton Friedman (1912 to 2006) was born to immigrant mother and father in Brooklyn, N.Y., and grew up in a small city in in New Jersey, 20 miles from New York Metropolis. In his Nobel biography, Friedman described his household as “heat and supportive”—however the household earnings as “small and extremely unsure.” His father died throughout his senior yr in highschool, and he took varied jobs to complement a scholarship to Rutgers College, the place he earned an undergraduate diploma in arithmetic and economics in 1932. On the advice of a Rutgers professor, Friedman was awarded a scholarship to an economics graduate program on the College of Chicago in 1932.2

Over the subsequent 14 years, along with tutorial roles on the College of Chicago and Columbia College, Friedman held a collection of presidency roles that deepened his experience in mathematical statistics and financial principle and contributed to publications on consumption and earnings evaluation that launched his profession.

For instance, Friedman’s shopper finances research on the Nationwide Assets Committee contributed to his well-known Idea of the Consumption Operate, and his skilled earnings research (Incomes from Unbiased Skilled Follow) on the Nationwide Bureau of Financial Analysis (NBER) launched the groundbreaking ideas of everlasting and transitory earnings (his everlasting earnings speculation) into financial science.2

Previous to incomes a Ph.D. in Economics from Columbia College in 1946, Friedman spent World Struggle II on a choose crew of statistical analysts engaged on wartime tax coverage for the U.S. Treasury Division (1941 to 1943) and serving as mathematical statisticians on weapon design, army techniques, and metallurgical experiments at Columbia College (1943 to 1945). Of be aware, throughout these early years on the U.S. Treasury, the well-known anti-taxation crusader beneficial growing taxes to suppress wartime inflation and devised the primary system of earnings tax withholding.2


The College of Chicago and Hoover lnstitution (1946 to 2006)

In 1946, Friedman accepted a proposal to show financial principle on the College of Chicago and spent the subsequent 30 years conducting groundbreaking evaluation and creating free-market theories that challenged Keynesian economics—the varsity of thought that had dominated macroeconomics for the reason that New Deal.2

Workshop on Cash and Banking: A key institutional accomplishment throughout this era on the College of Chicago was Friedman’s institution of a cash and banking workshop that allowed his financial research to evolve from particular person scholarship right into a cumulative physique of labor that drove the revival of each empirical and theoretical analysis within the fields of financial historical past and statistics.2

The Chicago College of Economics: Friedman additionally grew to become probably the most well-known alumnus of the Chicago College of Economics, a neoclassical faculty based within the Nineteen Thirties by his professor, Frank Knight, to advertise free markets and the idea of rational expectations, a macroeconomic principle that holds that people base choices on three components—human rationality, obtainable info, and previous experiences—which suggests each that present expectations straight affect the longer term economic system and that economists can precisely mannequin future inflation and rates of interest without having for presidency intervention.2

Nobel Prize in Financial Sciences (1976): In 1976, shortly earlier than he retired from the College of Chicago, Friedman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Financial Sciences for his achievements within the fields of consumption evaluation, financial historical past and principle, and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization coverage.3

 Hoover lnstitution of Stanford College: From 1977, when he retired from lively educating on the College of Chicago, till his loss of life in 2006, Friedman served as a Senior Analysis Fellow on the Hoover lnstitution of Stanford College, a public coverage assume tank selling the ideas of particular person, financial, and political freedom.2


Friedman the Theoretical Economist

Sure of Friedman’s accomplishments as a theoretical economist have been so important that even vocal neo-Keynesian critics admire the brilliance of his logic, together with his assertion that financial fashions ought to be judged by the accuracy of their predictions about conduct—not by their psychological realism.

For instance, in Friedman’s rational conduct mannequin on consumption conduct, shopper preferences may be expressed mathematically when it comes to utility, and shopper selections are pushed by rational calculations to maximise utility. Till then, Keynesian economists had defined shopper choices extra loosely in psychological phrases, e.g., a bent to spend some (however not all) of any improve in earnings.4

Notable reward from ideological opponents contains Paul Krugman’s assertion that “Friedman’s two best triumphs as an financial theorist got here from making use of the speculation of rational conduct to questions different economists had thought past its attain.”4

Idea of the Consumption Operate

Friedman’s first universally applauded software of the speculation of rational conduct to financial patterns was A Idea of the Consumption Operate, his 1957 e book that made the case for his everlasting earnings speculation—a shopper spending principle that states that saving and spending choices are based mostly on perceptions of everlasting—not short-term—adjustments to earnings. Folks spend at a degree in line with their anticipated long-term earnings and save provided that present earnings is increased than anticipated everlasting earnings. By successfully resolving earlier inaccuracies within the evaluation of the connection between earnings and spending. Friedman laid the muse for all subsequent financial evaluation of spending and saving patterns.4

Prediction of Stagflation

One other indeniable Friedman victory, praised by critics in addition to admirers, was that his rational-behavior rationalization of inflation precisely predicted a phenomenon that institution Keynesians thought was not possible: stagflation, a interval of stagnant financial progress with simultaneous excessive inflation and excessive unemployment.

In 1967, when Friedman introduced his prediction of stagflation in a presidential deal with to the American Financial Affiliation, he was difficult prevailing financial theories based mostly on the Phillips curve, an financial mannequin that demonstrated an historic correlation between unemployment and inflation that Keynesian economists had at all times assumed was secure, i.e., that prime inflation would at all times be related to low unemployment and low inflation with excessive unemployment.4

On the time, Keynesian economists had been utilizing the Phillips curve to argue that the secure tradeoff between unemployment and inflation justified expansionary fiscal insurance policies and deficit spending that drove increased inflation, as a result of it will hold unemployment low.

Friedman’s counterargument to the Keynesians in 1967 was that, although the information did present a correlation between inflation and unemployment, it was solely a brief trade-off—not a secure correlation—and each inflation and unemployment would finally be excessive on the identical time. Friedman’s rational conduct argument was that buyers coping with long-term inflation finally construct expectations of future inflation into saving and spending choices, which finally cancels the facility of excessive inflation to maintain employment excessive.4

When the stagflation of the late Seventies proved the accuracy of Friedman’s prediction that the historic correlation between inflation and unemployment would finally break down, it was hailed as “one of many nice triumphs of postwar economics.”4


Monetarism and the Nice Melancholy

When Friedman gained the Nobel Prize in 1976, the Committee cited a e book on monetarism that he and his colleague Anna Schwartz had printed in 1963: A Financial Historical past of america, 1867–1960.3 On this e book, Friedman used extremely detailed theoretical and empirical evaluation of the function of cash within the U.S. economic system for the reason that Civil Struggle to make the anti-Keynesian case that management of the cash provide was a main instrument of financial administration—because it had been all through pre-Keynesian economics.

The argument in opposition to financial coverage had been dominant for the reason that Nice Melancholy within the Nineteen Thirties, when the huge financial disaster made rates of interest so low that there was no incentive to take a position—and Keynesians believed that any extra money pumped into the economic system would have simply been held by people and banks with out jumpstarting the economic system. In that context, Keynesians efficiently advocated fiscal coverage (primarily authorities spending) over financial coverage to drag the economic system out of the Nice Melancholy.4

Essentially the most controversial place in Friedman’s 1967 e book focused this Keynesian strategy to the Nice Melancholy—and it grew to become fairly influential with economists and most people: his argument that the federal government (the Federal Reserve) made the Nice Melancholy worse by not enacting financial insurance policies. Within the e book, Friedman claimed that—if the Federal Reserve had prevented the dramatic drop in cash provide by bailing out banks within the early Nineteen Thirties—they may have prevented the wave of financial institution failures that made individuals determine to carry money fairly than make deposits and made banks maintain deposits fairly than make loans to revive the economic system.4

One of many causes that an anti-government economist like Friedman would advocate any authorities motion in any respect is that financial coverage is the least interventionalist (and ideally apolitical) motion that the federal government can take within the economic system. For instance, the Federal Reserve is a central bank, so it controls the monetary base—the overall forex in circulation and in financial institution vaults in addition to financial institution deposits on the Federal Reserve (however not the financial institution accounts of people).

All of the Federal Reserve needed to do to extend the cash provide (based on Friedman) was to create extra financial base after which let market forces play out—with no additional authorities involvement. In distinction, Keynesian fiscal insurance policies required far more authorities involvement within the economic system. For instance, a government-funded public works undertaking to extend employment wouldn’t solely be administered by authorities officers however it may be used to serve political ends.4

Neo-Keynesian critics of the e book embody Paul Krugman, who—though he referred to as A Financial Historical past a “huge work of extraordinary scholarship”—took exception to Friedman’s argument that the Federal Reserve made the Nice Melancholy worse by not enacting financial insurance policies. The Fed did improve the financial mixture that’s beneath their management—the financial base—so Krugman considers it extremely debatable to say that the Fed might have prevented the crash of the cash provide that in flip triggered the collapse of spending that deepened the melancholy. (Cash provide is a special financial mixture that features forex plus financial institution deposits that can be utilized as money.)4

Krugman additionally cautioned that what Friedman claimed within the e book—that the Federal Reserve had turned a cyclical recession into a serious melancholy by failing to bail out the banks—was extensively misinterpreted by some economists and the general public as Friedman believing that the Federal Reserve had brought on the Nice Melancholy, which made the melancholy a failure of huge authorities—not a failure of unrestricted free markets.4


Actual-World Software of Monetarism

Friedman first launched monetarism in his 1959 e book, A Program for Financial Stability, and for the subsequent three a long time monetarism was a serious matter of financial debate. In subsequent publications and public appearances over the subsequent 25 years, he made the case for controlling the cash provide so successfully that his repute as an economist was outlined to a big extent by the monetarism doctrine he created.

Nonetheless, by the Nineteen Eighties, within the wake of notable failures of main financial coverage initiatives in the true world, a few of his staunchest proponents started to reverse their help of monetarism. When an avowed monetarist Within the U.Ok., Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, enacted financial coverage to manage inflation within the early Nineteen Eighties, the inflation charge jumped to 23%—and monetarism was deserted by 1982. Within the U.S., when the Federal Reserve tried monetarism by steadily rising the cash provide to manage inflation within the late Seventies, the painful recession of 1981-1982—with rates of interest on the highest ranges for the reason that Civil Struggle and unemployment in double digits—was the end result.56

By 1982, the U.S. had deserted monetarism in observe—and in 1986, the New York Instances reported that Beryl Sprinkel, President Reagan’s Chief Economist and one of many “most tenacious partisans” of monetarism, had publicly disavowed the idea.6

Of be aware, when requested in regards to the failed U.S. try, Friedman stated that what occurred wasn’t a failure of monetarism—it was an execution failure by the Federal Reserve, i.e., they’d centered on rates of interest as an alternative of cash. ‘“Monetarism would work, if the Fed plugged the coverage into a pc and relied totally on the pc to steer the economic system.”6

On this context, critics have attributed Friedman’s sturdy advocacy of monetarism to a primarily partisan motivation: monetarism served his unilateral anti-government agenda. As a result of he believed that the Federal Reserve ought to develop the cash provide at a gradual, low, mounted charge with out even small deviations in response to financial circumstances, financial coverage might be on autopilot—and authorities officers would don’t have any management in any respect.4

Friedman’s Monetarism vs. Keynesian Economics

  • John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman have been two of probably the most influential financial and public coverage thinkers of the twentieth century. If Keynes was probably the most influential financial thinker of the primary half of the twentieth century, Friedman was probably the most influential financial thinker of the second half.
  • Till Friedman, Keynesian economics was the dominant paradigm in financial thought. To a big extent, U.S. authorities coverage was pushed by Keynesian ideas of interventionist fiscal coverage to clean out recessions and prop up mixture demand, together with strategic authorities spending to spur consumption and alleviate unemployment.
  • Critics of Keynes have labelled his theories as pseudo-scientific justification for short-sighted elected politicians to run fiscal deficits and accumulate huge ranges of presidency debt.7
  • Whereas Keynes has remained well-liked—and he’s extensively credited with creating the primary systematic strategy to macroeconomic authorities coverage—Friedman’s arguments in opposition to Keynesian fiscal coverage and for financial coverage have been dominant for the reason that Nineteen Eighties.
  • Critics of Friedman have stated that he impressed insurance policies that “put thousands and thousands…out of labor in pursuit of low inflation” and “demonized nearly every part the federal government did, regardless of how useful or democratically chosen.” As James Galbraith, the son of the liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith, put it: “Milton Friedman did not make a distinction between the large authorities of the Folks’s Republic of China and the large authorities of america.”1


The Public Face of Free Markets

In 1976, when Friedman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Financial Sciences for his work on consumption evaluation, financial historical past and principle, and the complexity of stabilization coverage, it marked the turning of the tide away from three a long time of Keynesian Economics and towards the Chicago College of Economics he had co-founded.

With this worldwide validation of his theories and the main mental victory of his prediction of stagflation within the late Seventies—one thing institution Keynesians typically thought was not possible—Friedman grew to become the brand new public face of free markets.

After three a long time of Keynesian dominance, Friedman reshaped tutorial thought in economics round a laissez-faire, free-market emphasis on costs, inflation, and human incentives—a direct counter to Keynes’ concentrate on employment, curiosity, and public coverage.

Over the subsequent three a long time, Friedman and his colleagues on the Chicago College of Economics argued in opposition to deficit spending and expansionary fiscal coverage and for monetarism, deregulation in most areas of the economic system, and a return to the free-market, small-government ideas of traditional economists, resembling Adam Smith.


Friedman the Public Mental

One in every of Friedman’s most vital accomplishments was the extent to which his theories influenced authorities coverage and public opinion in addition to financial analysis. Because the Nobel Committee famous in 1976, “It is vitally uncommon for an economist to wield such affect, straight and not directly, not solely on the course of scientific analysis but additionally on precise insurance policies.”3 At his loss of life in 2006, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated: “Amongst financial students, Milton Friedman had no peer. The direct and oblique influences of his pondering on up to date financial economics can be tough to overstate.1

Friedman’s vary as a spokesperson was equally spectacular. Along with having the ear of highly effective politicians and writing tutorial papers, he reached the general public by way of well-liked books, columns, and tv appearances. From debating extremely technical financial ideas on the tutorial degree to speaking the financial advantages of free markets and small authorities to tv audiences in direct, plain language, few public intellectuals in any subject have been as efficient.1

Throughout Friedman’s landmark interviews on Phil Donahue’s present in 1979 and 1980, the host stated his visitor was “a person who won’t ever be accused of constructing economics complicated,” and advised Friedman: “The good factor about you is that if you communicate, I nearly at all times perceive you.”8

Along with lectures on faculty campuses (e.g., Stanford and NYU), Friedman had a 10-series tv program entitled “Free to Select,” based mostly on his best-selling e book with the identical title,

Economist Walter Block, generally a pleasant agitator of Friedman, memorialized his up to date’s 2006 loss of life by writing, “Milton’s valiant, witty, sensible, eloquent and sure, I am going to say it, inspirational evaluation should stand out for instance to us all.”9


Speaking Economics to the Plenty

One measure of the extent to which Friedman has shifted the middle of debate in regards to the correct function of presidency within the economic system is the truth that sure of his core concepts have turn into well-liked knowledge.

“Decide insurance policies by their outcomes, not their intentions.”

In some ways, Friedman was an idealist and libertarian activist, however his financial evaluation was at all times grounded in sensible actuality. He famously advised Richard Heffner, host of “The Open Thoughts,” in an interview: “One of many nice errors is to evaluate insurance policies and applications by their intentions fairly than their outcomes.”10

Lots of Friedman’s most controversial positions have been based mostly on this precept. He opposed elevating the minimal wage as a result of he felt it unintentionally harmed younger and low-skilled staff, notably minorities. He additionally opposed tariffs and subsidies as a result of they unintentionally harmed home customers.9

His well-known 1989 “Open Letter” to then-drug czar Invoice Bennett referred to as for the decriminalization of all medication, largely due to the devastating unintended results of the drug battle.11 This letter misplaced Friedman a swath of conservative supporters, who he stated failed “to acknowledge that the very measures you prefer are a serious supply of the evils you deplore.”9

“Inflation is at all times and all over the place a financial phenomenon.”

Essentially the most well-known excerpt from Friedman’s writings and speeches is: “Inflation is at all times and all over the place a financial phenomenon.” He defied the mental local weather of his period and reasserted the amount principle of cash as a viable financial tenet. In a 1956 paper titled “Research within the Amount Idea of Cash,” Friedman discovered that, in the long term, elevated financial progress will increase costs however does probably not have an effect on output.12

Friedman’s work busted the traditional Keynesian dichotomy on inflation, which asserted that costs rose from both “cost-push” or “demand-pull” sources. It additionally put financial coverage on the identical degree as fiscal coverage.

“Technocrats should not management the economic system.”

In a 1980 Newsweek column, Milton Friedman stated: “Should you put the federal authorities in command of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a scarcity of sand.” Although maybe poetic, this well-known quote illustrates Friedman’s typically doctrinaire opposition to authorities intervention into the economic system; the Sahara Desert has in actual fact lengthy been largely owned by varied (African) nationwide governments and has by no means skilled a scarcity of sand.

Friedman was a vocal critic of presidency energy and was satisfied free markets operated higher on grounds of morality and effectivity. By way of the precise economics, Friedman rested on just a few truisms and fundamental, incentive-based analyses. He provided that no bureaucrat would or might spend cash as properly or as fastidiously because the taxpayers from whom it was taken. He spoke typically of regulatory seize, the phenomenon the place highly effective particular pursuits co-opt the very businesses designed to manage them.

To Friedman, authorities coverage is created and carried out by way of drive, and that drive creates unintended penalties that don’t come from voluntary commerce. The political energy of presidency creates an incentive for the rich and devious to misuse it, serving to to generate what Friedman dubbed “authorities failure.”

“Authorities failures may be as unhealthy, or worse, than market failures.”

Friedman liked declaring authorities failures in a method that proved his arguments about unintended penalties and the unhealthy incentives of presidency coverage.

He uncovered how President Richard Nixon’s wage and value controls led to gasoline shortages and better unemployment. He railed in opposition to the Interstate Commerce Fee (ICC) and Federal Communications Fee (FCC) for creating de facto monopolies in transportation and media. Famously, he contended that the mix of public education, minimal wage legal guidelines, drug prohibition, and welfare applications had unintentionally pressured many inner-city households into cycles of crime and poverty.


Did Friedman Say that Greed Is Good?

Friedman didn’t say that “greed is nice”— that could be a line from the 1987 film “Wall Road”—however he did write a well-known article in The New York Instances in 1970: The Social Duty of Enterprise is to Enhance Earnings. That article has been referred to as the inspiration for the greed-is-good excesses of activist traders who push corporations to create shareholder worth in any respect prices—and to the exclusion of all different issues, together with investing in workers and delivering worth to prospects.13


Was Friedman a Libertarian?

Walter Block stated that Friedman referred to as himself a small “l” libertarian, and he was clearly aligned with the libertarian ideas of small, much less intrusive authorities and deregulation all through his profession.14


What Impressed Friedman to Develop into an Economist?

Friedman, who was born in 1912, stated that the Nice Melancholy was of one of the essential components influencing his determination to turn into an economist. He wished to analyze the causes and penalties of such widespread financial distress.15


The Backside Line

Friedman is extensively thought of probably the most influential financial and public coverage thinker of the second half of the twentieth century, simply as Keynes is taken into account probably the most influential of the primary half. One in every of Friedman’s most vital accomplishments was the extent to which his theories influenced authorities coverage and public opinion in addition to financial analysis.

Friedman’s public coverage theories are based mostly on two core ideas: 1) voluntary interactions between customers and companies typically produce outcomes superior to these crafted by authorities decree; 2) insurance policies have unintended penalties, so economists ought to concentrate on outcomes, not intentions.

Friedman’s use of monetarism to contradict Keynesian theories based mostly on the Phillips curve is taken into account a serious mental triumph by each critics and admirers. When the stagflation of the late Seventies proved the accuracy of his prediction that the historic correlation between inflation and unemployment would finally break down, it was hailed as “one of many nice triumphs of postwar economics.”

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