catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Friedman the person

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Something a bit different, Walter Block gives some personal impressions of Milton Friedman as a human being, leaving out all that theoretical stuff.

Speaking of overwhelming, I once had the experience of leading a Liberty Fund Colloquium where we discussed empirical measures of economic freedom. I won’t mention all the sixteen or so participants, all of whom were powerful speakers, witty, highly articulate and knowledgeable. But I’ll mention this: aside from Milton Friedman, there was his wife Rose and their son David.

As can be expected, it was difficult apportioning scarce time amongst so many top theorists on this issue; a hard and fast rule in such events is that only one person could speak at a time. Anyone who knows them knows that Milton, Rose, and David would have dominated our deliberations. Things came to such a pass that I remember screaming out, perhaps the wittiest comment I ever made in my entire life: “One Friedman at a time!”

Walter is a senior fellow at the Mises Institute.


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November 18, 2006 at 6:34 am

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  1. Ronald Coase also described a Friedman experience, at

    Talking about what later became known as the Coase Theorem:

    “… the people at the University of Chicago thought it was an error. Some people thought I should delete this section from my article…

    “I replied that if it was an error, it was a very interesting error and I would just as soon it stayed in. And it did stay in.

    “Then George Stigler invited me to do something at a workshop in Chicago and I presented something on another topic. I said I’d like to have an opportunity to discuss my error. Aaron Director arranged a meeting at his home. Director was there, Milton Friedman was there, George Stigler was there, Arnold Harberger was there, John McGee was there–all the big shots of Chicago were there, and they came to set me right. They liked me, but they thought I was wrong. I expounded my views and then they questioned me and questioned me. Milton was the person who did most of the questioning…

    “This meeting was very grueling for me. I don’t know whether you’ve had a conversation with Milton Friedman, but an argument with Milton Friedman is a pretty strenuous affair. He’s very good. He’s very fair, but he doesn’t let you slip up on anything. You’re constantly being pressed. But when at the end of whatever the time was–say, an hour–I found I was still standing, I knew I’d won. Because if Milton can’t knock you out in a few rounds, you’re home.”


    November 18, 2006 at 4:12 pm

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