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Senior Research Paper: Milton Friedman

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Milton Friedman

Jordan Locke

Economics

10 April, 2013

Jordan C. Locke 10 April, 2013
Period: 2
Ms. House

Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman once said, "If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand”. Due to Friedman's many accomplishments and published works in the Economics field, I felt that he would be a great economist to write about. Milton Friedman was born in 1912, to two Jewish immigrant parents that lived in New York City. He earned his Bachelor's degree at Rutgers University at the age of twenty. He then went to the University of Chicago in 1933 to earn his Masters. In 1946, he earned his Doctorate at the Columbia University. He received the John Bates Clark Medal, honoring economists that had achieved the most outstanding levels of achievement by the age of Forty. He received the Nobel Peace Prize for his achievements in the field of consumption analysis, monetary history and theory, and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy. He served as an adviser for President Richard Nixon, and he was the president of the American Economic Association in 1967. He retired from the University of Chicago in 1977, and became the senior researcher at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. He was the premier spokesman for the monetarist school of economics and a pioneer in promoting the value of free market economics, when the position was not popular. Milton Friedman was a provocative teacher at the University of Chicago. He got his students involved with their studies. He was a gifted writer and communicator.
Milton publish a book with his Co-Author, Simon Kuznets, called “Income from Independent Professional Practice” in 1945. In his book, he argued that state procedures limited entry in the medical profession, allowing doctors to charge higher prices or fees than they would be able to do if “competition” were more open. “A Theory of the Consumption Function” was his landmark work in 1957 and took on the Keynesian view so that individuals and households can adjust their expenditures on consumption to show their current income.
In another book, called “Capitalism and Freedom”, Friedman wrote that the most important economics book of the 1960's was making a case for a relatively free markets to a general audience. The younger generation who may have read it were more encouraged to study economics on their own, because he actually worded his works to where the younger minds can understand and follow his example.
His ideas spread all around the world with the book he wrote with his wife, Rose Friedman. “Free to Choose” was one of the best-selling non-fiction book of the 1980's, and was written to go along with a TV show on the Public Broadcasting System. That book made Milton Friedman a household name. PBS telecast the series, beginning in January 1980. The general format was that of Dr. Friedman visiting and narrating a number of success and failure stories from history, which Dr. Friedman attributed to capitalism or the lack there of. Following the primary show, Dr. Friedman would engage in discussion with a number of selected debaters drawn from trade unions, academy and the business community, such as Donald Rumsfeld (then of G.D. Searle & Company) and Frances Fox Piven from the City University of New York. The interlocutors would offer objections to the proposals put forward by Friedman, who would in turn respond. After the final episode, Friedman sat down for an interview with Lawrence Spivak. The series was re-broadcasted in 1990, with Linda Chavez moderating the episodes. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronald Reagan, Steve Allen and others give personal introductions for each episode in the series. After the documentary part of the show, Friedman would sit down with a single opponent to debate the issues raised in the episode.[i]
Most of his work was on price theory- the theory that tells how prices are most likely are determined by individual markets. Going against Keynes and a vast majority of the academic establishment of the moment, Friedman brought evidence to bring back the quantity theory of money- the idea that the price really depends on the money supply.
In the book “Studies in the Quantity Theory of Money” that was published in 1956, he stated that in the long run, increased monetary growth increasing prices, but has little or no effect on the output. But in the short run, he debated that an increase in the money supply growth may cause employment and output to increase, and it decreases in the money supply growth will have the opposite effect. Friedman's solution to the problems of inflation and short-run fluctuations in employment and the real GNP was called the money-supply rule, which will cause inflation to disappear. In 1963, Friedman and Anna Schwartz Co-Authored “Monetary History of the United States”, which stated that the Great Depression happened because the Federal Reserve doesn't have corrupted monetary policies. Before the manuscript was published, the Federal Reserve took this moment to write a very long critical review. Because of their agitation the Fed governors closed their policies within minutes after the board's meetings to the public. They then had a counter-history written to distract people from the Monetary History. [ii]
Milton's book has been very influential for anyone who is interested in the economics profession. One part of that influence was in the change of the treatment of the monetary policy that was given by MIT Keynesian Paul Samuelson in one of his best-selling textbooks Economics. Samuelson stated, “few economists regard the Federal Reserve monetary policy as a panacea for controlling the business cycle,” in his 1948 edition. In 1967 Samuelson also stated that monetary policy had “an important influence” on spending total. William Nordhaus from Yale, said “Money is the most powerful and useful tool that macroeconomic policymakers have,” he also added that the Fed, “is the most important factor,” in making a policy.
During the 1960s the Keynesians and other economists believed that the government battled with the constant long-run trade-off between unemployment and inflation, this was called the Phillips Curve. In this the government can increase the demand for goods and services, which will permanently lower unemployment but by doing this they would have to accept a higher inflation rate. In the late 1960s, Friedman went against this view and debated that the moment that people adjusted to the higher inflation rate, unemployment will, eventually, go back up. He suggested that to keep unemployment down it would need a inflation rate that is constantly going up. [iii]
In the 1970s stagflation, due to the constant rising inflation that is also thrown in with the rising unemployment, Friedman had some very strong evidence that was capable of persuading many economists and Keynesians. Once again Samuelson's writings were a barometer for the change of economists' way of thinking. In the 1967 version says that the policymakers had gone against the inflation and unemployment. In the 1980 edition it said that there were ways that the trade-off in the long run than in the short run, then the 1985 version states that there is no long-run trade-off.

References:

Friedman, Milton. "The Social Responsibility of Business is to its Profits." . The New York Times Company, 13 Sep 1970. Web. April 16, 2013. <http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/friedman-soc-resp-business.html>. Krugman, Paul. "Who Was Milton Friedman?." The New York Review of Books. NYREV Inc., 15 Feb 2007. Web. 16 Apr 2013. <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/feb/15/who-was-milton-friedman/?pagination=false&printpage=true>. "The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics: Milton Friedman." Library of Economics and Liberty. Liberty Fund, Inc.. Web. 16 Apr 2013. <http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Friedman.html>.

[iv]

---------------------------------
[ i ]. Friedman, Milton. The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. The New York Times Company, 1970.
[ ii ]. Friedman, Milton. The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits. The New York Times Company, 1970.
[ iii ]. Friedman, Milton. The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits. The New York Times Company, 1970.
[ iv ]. Krugman, Paul.Who Was Milton Friedman?NYREV Inc, 2007

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