Thursday, November 16, 2006

Milton Friedman, RIP

Milton Friedman died today at the age of 94. He was a very smart person who used his considerable talents to fight for everybody's freedom. He is one of the people who ended the horror of military conscription in America, and he did more than any one person to spread the idea that the "war on drugs" is simply wrong. He was a great man.

Here is a story about him from the Chicago Tribune obituary:

When Nixon appointed Friedman to a panel examining whether to abolish the draft, Friedman found himself at odds with Gen. William Westmoreland, the Army chief of staff and former Vietnam commander.

At one point, Westmoreland declared that he did not want to command an army of "mercenaries."

"I stopped him and said, "General, would you rather command an army of slaves?" Friedman later recalled. "He drew himself up and said, 'I don't like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves.' I replied, 'I don't like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries.'"
The most sophisticated of the many obits I've seen is Charles Goodhart's, in the Guardian.

Friedman's grandson, Patri Friedman, has some links to delightful videos of Friedman here. To view them is to see how one participates in public discussion with both brilliance and urbanity.

I met Prof. Friedman just once. It was over lunch in Berlin, at the Mont Pelerin Society meetings of 1982 or 1983. He had just come from a trip to the USSR. His impression of the then-extant workers' paradise were, as you might imagine, not favorable. Of course, he had expected as much. But he also noticed that other visitors had similar reactions. On the return flight, when the pilot announced that they had crossed the Finnish border, the passengers burst into applause. Later, a Finnish cab driver gleefully told him, by means of broken English and hand-gestures, "Oh yes, I've been to Russia! I've dropped bombs on Russia!" referring to the brief period in 1940 and 41 when tiny Finland humiliated the Red Tsar, Stalin.

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