When I was in graduate school in the late 1960s, many of my peers were disciples of Mao and romanticized that thug Che Guevara. They carried around with them The Thoughts of Chairman Mao ("The Little Red Book") as if it were a badge of honor. I vividly remember the ugliness at the American Economic Association meetings when Friedman gave his Nobel Laureate lecture amid angry prrotests and demonstrations.
The "Little Green Book" (his Capitalism and Freedom) was the first book that made me think critically and creatively in economics. From today's vantage point, it appears to have won the long war with "The Little Red Book." His ideas have seized the commanding heights. It is a great irony that the best words to put on his tomestone would be those of John Maynard Keynes, the dominant intellectual force in economics from 1936 to the 1970s and the king whom Friedman deposed:
"The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood . . . Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back."
- J.M. Keynes, General Theory, ch. 24.
Today's Wall Street Journal is a must read. Not only is there a lead editorial on Uncle Milton (no surprise) and a front page article, but they published a new article by Friedman himself ("Why Money Matters") on the editorial page that is a gem. It could as easily have been titled "Booms, Technological Babbles and Busts." Personally, I can't imaging still writing so lucidly and perceptively at 94. In fact, still breathing would be an accomplishment.
Fellow economist Michael Boskin leaves us with the image of Milton and Rose dancing at her birthday. The perfect signature on a full and fruitful life!
Pray for his soul and the wife who has lost a soulmate. May he be smiling down at us from the true commanding heights.