Friedman’s Fight for Liberty Lives On
By Drew Johnson The Tennessee Center for Policy Research remembers Dr. Milton Friedman. On November 16, freedom lost a remarkable friend with the death of Dr. Milton Friedman. Though he stood barely five feet tall, he was a giant whose work ushered in a new era for liberty. Friedman will be remembered as an American force for the preservation of rights and the expansion of freedom. Friedman bravely advocated for smaller government, individual liberty and market-based economic policies at a time in which freedom was an afterthought. After the first chill of the Cold War left half the world’s people enslaved by the dismal binds of communism, Friedman’s writings laid the groundwork for the small government ideas of Barry Goldwater and, later, the Reagan Revolution. Friedman won the Nobel Prize for complex ideas on monetary theory, but he changed the world with his clear defense of the ideas of liberty. His classic response to the question of why government misuses taxpayers’ money demonstrated his effectiveness in explaining complicated topics gracefully and sensibly: “There are four ways in which you can spend money,” Friedman said. “You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.” “Then,” he continued, “I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income.” Friedman fought the battle for liberty on big stages. His book Capitalism and Freedom sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and millions worldwide became familiar with his ideas when PBS aired Free to Choose, his 10-part documentary series. Friedman’s efforts to advance liberty, however, weren’t limited to the bright lights of a television studio or the vast audiences vaulting his books onto best-seller lists. He also gave to the cause of freedom in small, personal ways. This is the Milton Friedman I will always remember. He took the time to sign dozens of books for our donors. He quickly answered my questions when I emailed him. He never hesitated to lend his name when he knew it would enhance credibility for a cause in which he believed. Even though he is no longer just a phone call away, I take comfort in knowing that Friedman’s ideas will live on. His words continue to find new life in the minds of young readers. The Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation will continue to benefit children by allowing parents instead of bureaucrats to make decisions about education. Think tanks, grassroots organizations and elected officials around the world will continue to promote policies that reflect Friedman’s beliefs in limited government and individual rights. We at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research are proud to be part of Milton Friedman’s legacy of liberty.