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Milton Friedman anniversary

30 Jul
Thursday would be Milton Friedman’s 102nd birthday.

I actually applied to only one college when I was a libertarian high school student, back before the internet existed, the University of Chicago, because I thought Milton Friedman taught there.

He had actually retired, and had moved on, I believe to the Hoover Institute.

I did actually meet him when he came to lecture there (I also worked in an office beside one of his associates, Sam Peltzman, and had several interesting conversations with him, including asking him about Austrian critiques of Chicago school beliefs in measurements of aggregate national capital stocks).  I grabbed a copy of a recent reason magazine that featured Friedman on the cover and ran to his lecture, hoping to have him autograph the issue.  After the lecture there was a long Q&A and then he generously stood for a long reception line, which I aimed for the back of, so I would not be rushed in asking him my brilliant questions when I reached him.  When I was about 3 people away from him I looked down and…I’d grabbed the wrong issue of reason.  He autographed it anyway.  (I don’t think it was the issue Mark Ames is agitating about currently; sadly you can’t find this 70s interview or the reason cover on the internet.)

A few years later I was at a Libertarian Party convention while I was in the middle of an idiotic romantic triangle only a 21 year old would have gotten himself into.  Depressed and unable to figure out what to do with myself, I latched onto a friend who was a University of Chicago anthropology grad student, Bonnie Kaplan, and sort of invited myself to accompany her and her boyfriend wherever they went as part of the convention, including to Disney Land.  She was actually trying to visit with her friend David Friedman, Milton Friedman’s son, and I am sure he wondered who the kid was gluing himself to them.

Then decades later I went on a reason magazine cruise where I met grandson Patri Friedman and his child, a toddler.  So I think other than my own the Friedman’s are the only family of which I have met 4 generations.

Which raises the question:  Does Milton Friedman prove that libertarianism is heritable?  (See More interesting to me is the near-perfect straight line you can draw from Milton Friedman, to his son David, to his grandson Patri.)

Friedman has a very slightly mixed reception among libertarians.  He produced David and Patri, mentored Thomas Sowell, created the idea of education vouchers.  He also came up with the idea of income tax witholding.  He taught generations of Chicago school economists whose cost benefit analyses showed many government programs to be counter-productive, laying the ground work for somewhat deeper public choice studies and for libertarian class analysis by other writers.  He was the faculty sponsor for the New Individualist Review, a University of Chicago student magazine that was in its way the precursor of all libertarian magazines and much anti-statist student activism and internet publishing.