Thursday, November 16, 2006

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Milton Friedman, R.I.P. (1912-2006)

Milton Friedman died today at the age of 94.

Here's the Cato Institute's obituary. And here's the New York Times obit. The best quote in that one comes from Ben Bernanke: "His thinking has so permeated modern macroeconomics that the worst pitfall in reading him today is to fail to appreciate the originality and even revolutionary character of his ideas."

The obit aso contains these surprising (to me) facts:

In his first economic-theory class at Chicago, he was the beneficiary of another accident — the fact that his last name began with an “F.” The class was seated alphabetically, and he was placed next to Rose Director, a master’s-degree candidate from Portland, Ore. That seating arrangement shaped his whole life, he said. He married Ms. Director six years later. And she, after becoming an important economist in her own right, helped Mr. Friedman form his ideas and maintain his intellectual rigor.

After he became something of a celebrity, Mr. Friedman said, many people became reluctant to challenge him directly. “They can’t come right out and say something stinks,” he said. “Rose can.”

During the first two years of World War II, Mr. Friedman was an economist in the Treasury Department’s division of taxation. “Rose has never forgiven me for the part I played in devising and developing withholding for the income tax,” he said. “There is no doubt that it would not have been possible to collect the amount of taxes imposed during World War II without withholding taxes at the source.

“But it is also true,” he went on, “that the existence of withholding has made it possible for taxes to be higher after the war than they otherwise could have been. So I have a good deal of sympathy for the view that, however necessary withholding may have been for wartime purposes, its existence has had some negative effects in the postwar period.”

posted by Dan on 11.16.06 at 02:03 PM


זכרונו לברכה
May he be remembered for a blessing.

I have a blog post about Milton Friedman trying to bring freedom to Israel (

Incidentally, I think the story about being sat next to Rose Director is on one of the first pages of his autobiography Two Lucky People.

posted by: amechad on 11.16.06 at 02:03 PM [permalink]

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