IMG_0006[1]On July 31st, 2009 the Minnesota Free Market Institute held it’s annual Milton Friedman birthday party. The event was a great success.  Over 100 people attended the Friday afternoon event, hosted by Free Market Institute Chairman Tom Kelly. A drawing was held for 10 copies of Friedman’s Free to Choose and several Milton Friedman posters.

Senior Policy Fellow David Strom gave some brief remarks and offered a toast. Here is the text of his remarks:

It is a genuine pleasure to have the honor of toasting Milton Friedman on what would have been his 97th Birthday.

In many of Friedman’s biographies he is described as being an economist best known for having won the Nobel Prize in 1976.

That is, of course, completely wrong. If we only knew of Friedman as an economist, we hardly would know of him at all. After all, other such honored economists include:

  • Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen, the very first winners of the Nobel Prize in economics in 1969
  • Or Simon Kuznets, winner of the 1971 Nobel Prize
  • Or how about Leonid Hurwicz, Eric S. Maskin, Roger B. Myerson who won in 2007?
  • Of course we all know the 2008 winner, Paul Krugman, but primarily because he is a political crank, not because he is a prize-winning economist.

My point is simple: we have come here to celebrate Milton Friedman’s life not because of his excellent work as an economist, but because of his success as a tireless advocate for freedom.

It was not Friedman’s economic contributions that led to the abolition of the draft and the institution of an all-volunteer Army; it was his tireless working on Congress convincing them that a free labor market would produce a better army and freer citizens. And as a result fewer Americans have died in the entire Iraq war than did in a typical year of training accidents when we had the draft.

Friedman’s most memorable and popular work Free to Choose was published in 1980, along with a 10-part PBS series that took the country by storm. It was that same year, of course, that Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter by a landslide and began pushing the country back from what seemed to be an inevitable slide toward socialism.

Friedman’s advocacy and Reagan’s success were not merely coincidental. In fact, I am convinced that without Milton Friedman’s sunny and optimistic promotion of Capitalism Ronald Reagan’s sunny and optimistic vision for renewing America would have had much more trouble catching on.

Friedman’s life work was promoting the idea that free markets are not just about making money to the exclusion of other values. Instead he showed how free markets are the best way for each of us to individually pursue our own vision of the good life and the good society and do so through the voluntary cooperation of others.

In these difficult times it is important to remember the contributions apostles of freedom such as Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan have made. Without them our society would be much poorer and less free. And it is only by following their path that we can be assured of the better future we and our children all deserve.