Milton Friedman: Free Market Economist

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Milton Friedman: Free Market Economist
Many consider Milton Friedman one of the greatest, most prominent economists of the twentieth century. From his free market advocacy to his ideas of competition in education and less government, Milton Friedman’s ideas have lead to change around the world. His contributions have arguably added tens of trillions of dollars to the world product over time (Ebenstein, 2007).

Milton Friedman rose from vary humble beginnings to become one of the most respected economists of his time. Born in 1912 to poor Jewish immigrants in New York City, Friedman took his life in stride. “We always had enough to eat and the family atmosphere was warm supportive”, Freidman stated. His parents were born in a Hungarian community in what is now known as the Ukraine. They met in New York City as teens. When Milton was a year old the family moved to Rahway, New Jersey where the Freidman’s ran a dry-goods store (Lindbeck, 1992). Along with his sisters, Milton attended public schools and graduated from Rahway High School in 1928, shortly before is 16th birthday. During that year, Milton’s father died leaving his mother and two older sisters to support the family (Lindbeck 1992). Friedman attended Rutgers University on scholarship and earned his B.A. in 1932 (The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, 2008). Although he specialized in mathematics, Friedman became interested in economics and graduated with a major in both fields. Two professors, Homer Jones and Arthur Burns, made economics “exciting and relevant”, exclaimed Friedman, and helped him to obtain a scholarship to pursue his master’s degree at the University of Chicago (Lindbeck, 1992). At the same time Milton was offered a mathematics scholarship to Brown University, which he turned down. His choice was “inspired by the ongoing Great Depression and his belief that economics could help solve it” (Doherty, 2007). Milton Friedman completed his Master’s Degree in only one year in 1933. During that time period he met another economics student and future wife, Rose Director. They would marry six years later after the fears of the depression had past. Milton proclaimed that Rose has been an “active partner in all of his professional work”, pinning many books together (Lindbeck, 1992).

In 1933 Milton Friedman accepted a graduate fellowship at Columbia University where he was introduced to mathematical economics and economic theory and would later earn his PH.D. Friedman was also exposed to institutional and empirical approach to economics that was completely different from that he was a part of in Chicago. In 1935 Friedman began working for the federal government with the National Resources Committee on a consumer budget study. Two years later he began working at the National Bureau of Economic Research where he jointly published Incomes from Independent Professional Practice, which later became his doctoral dissertation at Columbia (Doherty, 2007). These two experiences led to his “landmark work, A Theory of the Consumption Function”, that was later published in 1957 (The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, 2008). Freidman worked for two years at the U.S. Treasury’s tax research division from 1941-1943. During his stint there, he was “partially responsible for developing the withholding system for paying income tax”, which he later wished there was a way to abolish (Doherty, 2007). Milton Friedman made is mark over the next 31 years from 1946-1977, as a teacher, scholar, and finally the Dean of the Chicago School of Economics, while simultaneously maintaining a position with the Bureau of Economic Research (Ebenstein, 2007).

Milton Friedman had no real political aspirations, but in the early 1960’s he was drawn to the public arena. In 1964, Friedman served, as an economic advisor to Senator Goldwater during his failed presidency bid. Again in 1968 he was on the economic committee during Richard Nixon’s successful presidential candidacy. (Lindbeck,...
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