Milton Friedman Economics Theory Summary

Milton Friedman Theory, Milton Friedman History, Friedman Monetary

Attempting to portray the work of Milton Friedman in 5000 words is an impossible assignment. It is like trying to catch the Niagara Falls in a pint pot. A diminutive man in physical stature (5 ft 3 in), Friedman is also one of the intellectual giants of twentieth-century economics - the source of a cascade of ideas, papers and books, of a highly diverse, original and (nearly always!) provocative nature.

A journal article written to assess Friedman's scientific contri­butions to economics (Thygesen, 1977), to occasion his achieve­ment of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Economics, lists some 245 Friedman publications, including 26 books; Friedman has also contributed a regular-and regularly effervescent-economics column to Newsweek for many years. Nor was this to be any valedictory assessment. Although now 'retired' from the Univer­sity of Chicago, where he rose to international prominence as the leader of the so-called 'Chicago School' of economics, Friedman continues his work in a variety of forms. Now at the Hoover Institute, he is currently engaged upon a major research project (with Anna J. Schwarz) on international price-level and monetary linkages from an historical perspective. Over the past two years he has also worked on a TV documentary series entitled Free to Choose.

Friedman's work is hallmarked by its diversity as much as by its quantity. His theoretical and empirical contributions to economic analysis have ranged over such varied topics as utility theory, income distribution theory, the aggregate consumption function, tax theory, and many other topics, although his central concern has proved to be that of monetary economics. His contributions to the discussion of public policy have been even more varied, covering virtually the entire gamut of major economic and social issues of contemporary concern.

A third hallmark of Friedman's work has been his originality -and talent for controversy. Both in his 'technical' economic writings and his more 'populist' writings on public policy, Friedman has exhibited a persistent flair for attacking established orthodoxy. As Dolan (1977, p. 206) has remarked, when Friedman got the 1976 Nobel Prize in Economics:

Few were surprised. The main surprise was that this most original and influential of economists had had to wait in line so long! The explanation is that Friedman has built his career outside the economics establishment - built in, in fact, by challenging virtually every major establishment doctrine.

It says much for the penetrating lucidity of Friedman's writing, let alone the sheer tenacity of the man himself, that his attacks upon the establishment thinking of the post-war years have them­selves - at least as regards certain topics - gradually, if grud­gingly, become accepted as a sort of new orthodoxy. There are, for example, now few governments which would not pay at least lip-service to Friedman's insistence upon the need for monetary control in the fight against inflation.

Finally, it needs to be noted that Friedman's work has not been confined to economic analysis and policy. He has also contributed to statistical theory and its applications, to the study of economic history-particularly as regards the monetary history of the USA, to the discussion of the methodology of science, and to the political philosophy of a free society.

How does one summarise this kaleidoscopic thinker in 5000 words?