Milton Friedman, noted economist, Nobel laureate, and Hoover senior research fellow, dies at 94

Thursday, November 16, 2006

STANFORD — Milton Friedman, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Science and a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution since 1977, died this morning. He was 94.

Friedman also had the distinction of being the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science, both awarded to him in 1988.

“Today Stanford has lost a great scholar and friend, and our country has lost one of its leading economists,” said Stanford University president John L. Hennessy. “Dr. Friedman's ability to explain complicated economic theories has had a profound impact beyond the university. We will miss his candor and intelligence, but we are quite certain that his insights will live for generations."

“Milton Friedman was arguably the greatest economist of the 20th century,” said Hoover Institution director John Raisian. “His reach was incredible.  Esteemed academic economists lauded his intellectual capacity and leadership of the Chicago School of economics.  At the same time, he was a household name among noneconomists.  In ordinary life, people knew the name of Milton Friedman as a great economist – it is an amazing tribute to the man.  He contributed to the notion that ideas have meaning; no economist could claim that phrase more than he could.

“For those of us at Hoover, he was a bellwether in our thinking about political economy,” Raisian added. “We enjoyed his collegiality for nearly 30 years.  He was active throughout his lifetime, and his later years were no exception.  We will truly miss him.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with his wife, Rose Director Friedman, in this time of sorrow,” Raisian said. “Milton and Rose considered themselves ‘two lucky people,’ as their autobiography was titled.  Rose was not only a loving spouse but also an intellectual partner.  It was a joy to see them in action together.  Indeed, the only time I saw Milton pause on an analytic point was when Rose was his interrogator.”

A longtime and outspoken proponent of political and economic freedom, Friedman conceived many of the most important innovations in economic theory during the second half of the 20th century. Of those, his landmark work explaining monetary supply and its effect on economic and inflationary shifts garnered him worldwide renown and respect.

The influence of Friedman’s work was felt again this year when Edmund Phelps was announced as the 2006 Nobel Prize winner in economics for a theory the two Nobelists developed in the 1960s regarding unemployment and inflation. That theory continues to be used as a practical guide among the world’s major central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Friedman, who often served as an adviser and sage for many government leaders, played a key role in this nation’s economic policy despite never having formally served in an administration after World War II. He also was known for championing school vouchers, particularly through the foundation he and his wife created, the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

In addition to his position as a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Friedman was the Paul Snowden Russell Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Chicago, where he taught from 1946 to 1976, and was a member of the research staff of the National Bureau of Economic Research from 1937 to 1981.

He was widely regarded as the leader of the Chicago School of monetary economics, which stresses the importance of the quantity of money as an instrument of government policy and as a determinant of business cycles and inflation.

In addition to his scientific work, Friedman wrote extensively on public policy, always with a primary emphasis on the preservation and extension of individual freedom. His most important books in this field were (with his wife, Rose) Capitalism and Freedom (University of Chicago Press, 1962); Bright Promises, Dismal Performance (Thomas Horton and Daughters, 1983), which consists mostly of reprints of columns he wrote for Newsweek from 1966 to 1983; (also with Rose) Free to Choose (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), which complemented a ten-part television series of the same name shown on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) network in early 1980; and (with Rose) Tyranny of the Status Quo (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984), which complemented a three-part television series of the same name, shown on PBS in early 1984.

He was a member of the President's Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force (his opposition to conscription helped end the draft); the President's Commission on White House Fellows; and he was also a member of the President’s Economic Policy Advisory Board (a group of experts from outside the government named in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan).

Friedman was active in public affairs, serving as an informal economic adviser to Senator Barry Goldwater in his unsuccessful campaign for the presidency in 1964, to Richard Nixon in his successful 1968 campaign, to President Nixon subsequently, and to Ronald Reagan in his 1980 campaign.

He published numerous books and articles, most notably A Theory of the Consumption Function, The Optimum Quantity of Money and Other Essays, and (with A. J. Schwartz) A Monetary History of the United States, Monetary Statistics of the United States, and Monetary Trends in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Friedman served as president of the American Economic Association, the Western Economic Association and the Mont Pelerin Society. He also was a member of the American Philosophical Society and the National Academy of Sciences.

He was awarded honorary degrees by universities in the United States, Japan, Israel, and Guatemala, as well as the Grand Cordon of the First Class Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Japanese government in 1986.

Friedman received a B.A. degree in 1932 from Rutgers University, an M.A. in 1933 from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. degree in 1946 from Columbia University.

Two Lucky People, his and Rose D. Friedman's memoirs, was published in 1998 by the University of Chicago Press.

Milton Friedman was born July 31, 1912, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the fourth and last child and first son of Sarah Ethel (Landau) and Jeno Saul Friedman. He and his wife, Rose Director Friedman, who survives, were married in 1938. He is also survived by their two children, Janet Martel and David Friedman, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Services are pending.