Today marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Milton Friedman, one of the world’s preeminent voices in economics. I attended the University of Chicago for law school, but everyone understood that the headlines were being generated by Dr. Friedman and his colleagues at the Chicago School of Economics. He not only won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, but was an author and an adviser to President Ronald Reagan.
Keynesian economics dominated the field in the early half of the 20th century, arguing for more government management of the economy, high public spending, and frequent monetary supply adjustments. Friedman instead called for an economy as free as possible from the involvement of its government, ideas that felt like a breath of fresh air in the ‘70s, a time of wage-and-price controls, oil shocks, and stagflation.
Friedman earned his Nobel Prize for his work in stabilization policy. His simply-stated beliefs gained further traction and influence when he became an economic advisor to President Reagan’s presidential campaign. His popular book Right to Choose quickly inspired its own think tank dedicated to personal, economic and political freedom. Mr. Friedman’s willingness to champion all aspects of an individual’s freedom from government has made him a champion for conservatives and everyone who believes that economic freedom is personal freedom.
Friedman’s theories remain relevant today, especially as so many politicians feel the lure of picking economic winners and losers through their policy choices. As we observe Friedman’s 100th birthday, I know that the path to job growth is to support job creators, creating competitive conditions through tax reform, increased use of competitive contracting, and harmonized regulations. A top-down, command-and-control economy doesn’t work, whether it’s being run from D.C. or Olympia. Friedman clearly articulated a better way, and that’s worth celebrating today.
Rob McKenna is the Attorney General for the State of Washington and a candidate for Washington State Governor. During his more than 17 consecutive years holding public office in state and King County government, Rob has brought together colleagues from across the political spectrum and taken a lead in pushing through innovative solutions to some of our most pressing problems. Rob earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington before earning his law degree at the University of Chicago. (robmckenna.org)