Milton Friedman the face of the free market

Nicknamed the founder of Monetarism, Milton Friedman is a renowned economist and Nobel Prize winner. In this story, we will explore how M. Friedman went from a 'simple' mathematician to the face of the free markets.

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From ambition to passion

Born on July 31, 1912 in Brooklyn, NY, Milton was the youngest of four. His parents migrated from the former Carpatho-Ruthenia to New York. When he was one year old his family moved to Rahway NJ where he grew up.


During his senior year Milton's dad died and he had to help provide for the family. They took it for granted that Friedman had to attend college and also finance it himself. At the time he made money through a variety of jobs.


By winning a scholarship for Rutgers University, he could specialize in mathematics. In the year 1932, he earned his bachelor's degree and aimed to become an actuary. While taking multiple actuarial examinations, some successful, others not, he gained an interest in economics. 


Sources of influence

During his studies in economics, their were two men who left an everlasting impression and formed the basis for his views on monetarism and free markets. The first person was Arthur F. Burns, he gave light to Milton's broader understanding of economic research.


Arthur also introduced him to 'Principles of Economics', a book written by Alfred Marshall, which is his second greatest influence.


One of Milton's favorite quotes on describing economics comes from this book.
' Economics is an engine for the discovery of concrete truth.' 


Friedman often vouched that studying economics isn't merely mathematical but should also enable you to understand how the world works. 



Adding many contributions to economic theory throughout his life, one that stands out is 'A Theory of the Consumption Function'. A book published in 1957, opposing the dominating economic views of that time. 


Milton also wrote 'A Monetary History of the United States' together with Anna J. Schwartz.

This book contains a history of the stock of money dating from just after the Civil War until 1960. This book gave light to one of his most famous statements, namely that the cause of the great depression stems from failure in monetary policy by the Federal Reserve. 


One of Friedman's greatest victories was his prediction of 'stagflation', stated in 1967. Though considered impossible at the time by the ruling economic view, his theory was proven right in 1970.

Stagflation is a term for a period of stagnant economic growth that goes along with high inflation and high unemployment. 


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Nobel Prize

One year before Milton retired, he received the Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences in 1976, primarily for his work on consumption and monetary history. Also because his works indicated a turning point in the ruling economic views, that were at that time holding strong for three decades. 


His outstanding influence on both scientific research and actual policies was highly noted by the Nobel Prize committee. 


Free To Choose

One of Milton's most exciting adventure came after he retired from lecturing in Chicago and moved to San Francisco. There, Friedman got invited to work on a major television program with Bob Chitester. The work for the program was spread over three years and resulted in a 10-part documentary called 'Free to Choose'. 


The filming started in 1978 in various places around the world. This documentary shapes a clear image of the virtues that a free market has to offer. This documentary would later make him the face of the free markets for decades to come.


Free to Choose was first aired in 1980 and also resulted in a book called: 'Free to Choose: A Personal Statement' written by Milton and his wife Rose D. Milton. 

Final takeaway

The versatile career of Milton Friedman still resonates in the current economic landscape, leaving an everlasting impression.

Though some of his visions were controversial at the time, many came to stand true. 


'A theory of consumption function' and 'A Monetary History of the United States' are still in print and keep inspiring people who venture the realm of economics.


'Free to Choose' accelerated the Free to Choose Network and is still active to date, acting as a non-profit organisation to provide quality information media to the world.


Here are a few of his most memorable quotes:


'There is nothing as permanent as a temporary government program.'


'Inflation is caused by too much money chasing after too few goods,'


'The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem,'


Let the story of Milton Friedman inspire you to chase your ambition and let it grow into passion!

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