The great economist Milton Friedman died yesterday. But like all great thinkers, he left an intellectual legacy that will endure.
Friedman’s métier was documenting and espousing the libertarian cause in economics and, by extension politics. Free markets and democracy are inextricably linked, he taught. One can’t long survive without the other, an empirical observation that’s still far from universally accepted in the 21st century.
Unlike some in the dismal science, Friedman was no ideologue, even if he was easily caricatured as such by those who don’t understand the academic foundation sustaining his views. Indeed, Milton didn’t preach utopian visions in the hope that the empirical record would lend support. Rather, Friedman looked at the evidence and drew conclusions about how the world worked. As a result, his analysis is both practical and scientifically sound, at least to the extent that any economic theory can be. Reality, in sum, is a mighty potent tool in the pursuit of the truth.
Of particular relevance to CS is Friedman’s pioneering work on money supply theory. His lucid analysis on that front has been widely celebrated and so we’ll simply close by referencing his final essay on the subject, which appears in today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required): “Why Money Matters.” To summarize the piece, keep your eye on the quantity of money, Milton asserts last time.