Sunday, February 19, 2012

Remembering Milton Friedman

The Free to Choose Network is commemorating the 100th birthday of Milton Friedman by releasing an update of his groundbreaking series Free to Choose.  The series titled Testing Milton Friedman will be a three part series of roundtable discussions on three major topics: "The Power of the Market," "Tyranny of Control," and "Created Equal."  The participants include original Free to Choose participant Walter Williams (George Mason University) and other famous economists such as J. Bradford DeLong (University of California - Berkeley), Kevin Murphy (University of Chicago), Bryan Caplan (George Mason University), Austan Goolsbee (University of Chicago), Dani Rodrik (Harvard University), Raghuram Rajan (University of Chicago), and others.

It is scheduled to begin airing May 1, 2012.  Check your local listings for exact date and time.  For those of you who would like to brush up, here is the original Free to Choose series from 1980.

My Professor, Thomas Rustici, was taught by James Buchanan who was taught by Milton Friedman so I think that makes me Friedman's Great-Grandstudent.  One of the stories that Rustici told me about Buchanan's tenure at the University of Chicago is that Friedman arrived while he was in the middle of his doctorate.  He had already taken his graduate level microeconomics class with Frank Knight, who was chairman of the department.  Knight was apparently so impressed by Friedman's approach to micro that he forced every graduate student to retake their micro course with Friedman.  According to Rustici, Buchanan said that he never really understood Microeconomics until that class.

I recently found a copy of Friedman's Price Theory, which is actually the lecture notes of David Fand and Warren Gustus which were reviewed and enhanced by Friedman.  Friedman characterizes the notes as being part of his course on Price Theory, so I'm not sure if that is the same course that Buchanan told Rustici about (these are the perils of second-hand knowledge) but when I was reading through the book, it was basically what Rustici was teaching on the subject.  In any case, it is a terrific book and even though it is far from famous it is as good or better than anything I've ever read by Friedman or on the subject.

In one of the last conversations I had with my grandfather, Dr. Philip Raup, he mentioned that he once shared a two hour drive with Milton Friedman in the early 1950's.  Friedman was lecturing at Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota.  My Grandfather rode with him from the airport in the Twin Cities to Collegeville.  I asked him what they talked about, or what he could recall of the conversation, and he only said that "He was very opinionated."  I think that is a gentleman's way of saying that they didn't agree very much.

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