by Thomas E. Connors
Today, July 31, 2017, marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of one of the 20th century’s greatest economists: Milton Friedman.
Most conservatives and libertarians in the United States hardly need an introduction to the man, as most of us place him firmly on the “Mount Rushmore” of great free market advocates. We here at Conservative First are among the many who wish to reintroduce Friedman to the next generation of political and economic thinkers.
My connection to Milton Friedman started soon after the reelection of President Barack Obama in 2012. Coming as quite a surprise to many conservatives in the United States, Obama’s victory forced those of us on the losing end to resort to a variety of coping mechanisms. While Mitt Romney had run a competent campaign, most saw the failures of the Obama administration as the ultimate reason why Americans would submit a vote of “no confidence” to the 44th Commander in Chief. However, on November 6, 2012, President Obama was voted back into the White House by a significant margin. That defeat left the nation’s conservatives and some libertarians wondering “what next?”
In January 2013, just a few weeks before President Obama once again took the oath of office, Rush Limbaugh lamented his concern to his national radio audience about a country that would elect a man like Barack Obama to the presidency twice. I too, felt this way.
Perhaps the reelection of President Obama marked a watershed moment in America, one which meant a dramatic pendulum swing away from free market, limited-government conservatism back towards government control of society and an economy similar to the New Deal in the 1930s and the Great Society in the 1960s, both eras dominated by progressive Democratic policies. If this were indeed the case, then what would that mean for all of the hard work conservatives and libertarians had been doing the last 30 years? How would we cope with the changing times?
Some people found solace in their friends and family, while others disconnected all together. I, on the other hand, found refuge on YouTube watching Milton Friedman videos. I started with Friedman’s two appearances on The Phil Donahue Show where Friedman succeeds in making complex economic principles easier for both the host and his lay audience to digest, though Mr. Donahue’s body language suggests he is even more perplexed than ever that his beloved socialism doesn’t work.
After that, I quickly discovered the 10-part PBS series Free to Choose based on the book Friedman and his wife Rose co-authored. Lauded for its ability to take economic complexities and make them understandable to the average thinker, this timeless series is a must-watch for anyone wanting to learn more about how human freedom and economic freedom are so closely aligned. As a side note, Dr. Thomas Sowell, a former pupil of Milton Friedman, and Dr. Walter E. Williams are guest debaters throughout the series and both men have had a major influence in shaping our economic principles and philosophy.
Finally, I immersed myself deeper into Friedman’s economic philosophy by watching lectures and the adjoining question and answer sessions which Friedman participated in during the mid-to-late 1970s at colleges and universities across the country. There are endless additional video and written material about Milton Friedman and his philosophies for anyone curious to uncover.
Today, more than ever, with capitalism increasingly under assault, Milton Friedman’s economic philosophy is needed to help stem the tide of government overreach into human freedom. His influence looms large over my political and economic principles as I’m sure it does for millions of conservatives in the United States. The ability to view most issues which affect Americans through the lens of limited government provided his disciples with the tools to continue his legacy, the same way Ronald Reagan’s legacy is preserved.