Milton Friedman: A Biography

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Overview

Born the son of immigrant parents, Milton Friedman went on to become a major figure during the resurgence of American conservatism. As an adviser to the Reagan administration and a widely read columnist, he played a vital role in shaping government policy and public opinion while he made headlines for his controversial views.

Drawing on the author's unprecedented access to personal archives—and to Friedman himself prior to his death in 2006—this is the first book to trace his ...

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Milton Friedman: A Biography

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Overview

Born the son of immigrant parents, Milton Friedman went on to become a major figure during the resurgence of American conservatism. As an adviser to the Reagan administration and a widely read columnist, he played a vital role in shaping government policy and public opinion while he made headlines for his controversial views.

Drawing on the author's unprecedented access to personal archives—and to Friedman himself prior to his death in 2006—this is the first book to trace his life and development as an economic theorist. With a combination of revealing personal detail and fascinating exploration of economic theory, this is a revealing look at the man regarded by many as a hero of libertarianism and laissez-faire economics.

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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
Although not as compelling or intellectually profound as LordRobert Skidelsky's classic biography of John Maynard Keynes, Ebenstein's quick and serviceable biography of Keynes' great rival Milton Friedman provides the basic facts and an outline of the intellectual history of one of the twentieth century's dominant intellectual thinkers. In some ways, Friedman's journey was the opposite of Keynes'. A self-described "Norman Thomas socialist" when he first went to work for the Roosevelt administration on the New Deal in 1935, Friedman ultimately inspired political leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in their rejection of the political economy of the mid-twentieth century. Friedman was the son of poor Jewish immigrants from central Europe. Educated on scholarships and working his way up the American academic ladder from Rutgers to the University of Chicago by the force of his intellect and drive, he went on to articulate and defend the principles of the liberal society that welcomed him. A remarkable 2005 interview of Friedman by Nathan Gardels is included as an appendix; this glimpse into the still lively mind of the nonagenarian economist is alone worth the price of the book.
Library Journal

Given the recent death of noted economist Milton Friedman, it is fortuitous that we should find Ebenstein (economics, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Friedrich Hayek: A Biography) assessing Friedman's life. Friedman was many things in his long career: bureaucrat, professor, author, columnist, public television host, presidential advisor, and Nobel prize winner in economics in 1976. The University of Chicago was his intellectual home for many years, and there he taught a number of students who later became well-known economists in their own right. As a true libertarian, he believed that "adults should be able to do as they wish so long as they are not harming anyone else." He advocated less government, a free-market economy, even legalized drugs and prostitution. Where some may see Friedman as an ideologue, the author views him as a man of true conviction who believed in following the truth, no matter where it led him. Though modest in scale, this biography doesn't skimp on the details of Friedman's life. Well written, thoroughly researched, and easy to read, it successfully explains how Friedman's ideas continue to resonate. Recommended for all libraries with business/economic collections.
—Richard Drezen Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kirkus Reviews
First post-mortem tribute to the most influential champion of the free market since Adam Smith. Actually, Ebenstein (Economics and Political Theory/Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) refers to his subject throughout in the present tense, apparently not having had the opportunity to update his text since the economist's death, on Nov. 16, 2006. Born in 1912, Milton Friedman was a puissant teacher and leader of the so-called Chicago School of economic theory. He also splendidly fit the modern job description of a public intellectual. With just a nod to his personal life, this tribute lauds Friedman as philosophical technician and theoretical guru of modern day laissez-faire. Perhaps, posits the author, he is the Karl Marx of libertarianism. Ebenstein quickly covers the economist's early academic years and break for service as a WWII mathematician, before really getting going with Friedman's return to the University of Chicago in 1946. He uses examples from scholarly writings to illustrate the economist's evolution from possible early liberal tendencies to full-blown libertarianism. Readers will find summaries of Friedman's thoughts on statistics, political economics, price theory and consumption function, savings and investing, supply and demand, permanent and transition income, money and banking. The influential 1963 text A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 presented a revisionist view of the Great Depression, arguing that the New Deal was "the wrong cure for the wrong disease." Regarding welfare, Friedman concluded, "government should not provide for the indigent, unemployed, elderly, sick, and disabled." The free-market hero, with the help of wife Rose, wrote potently. Hepromoted his ideas in a PBS series. He supplanted John Maynard Keynes in the hearts of many theorists, won a Nobel and influenced generations with his powerful intellect. Ebenstein, clearly persuaded by the libertarian views of his revered subject, finds little fault with his hero in this dry hagiography executed with as much verve as an economist can muster. An economic biography for economic theorists, particularly those on the right.
From the Publisher
"A worthy homage to Friedman's ideas."

The Financial Times

"[A] rounded, readable portrait of a man whose impact on the lives of millions in the 20th century is measured not by his opponents and enemies, but by the individuals he converted."

The Chicago Sun-Times

"Quite handy. It marshals lots of material, and to devotees the bibliographical essay at the end may be worth the cover price in itself."

The Economist

"This biography doesn't skimp on the details of Friedman's life. Well written, thoroughly researched, and easy to read, it successfully explains how Friedman's ideas continue to resonate."

Library Journal

"A surprisingly readable, succinct portrait of the combative economist."

Bloomberg News

"Ebenstein covers a lot of material with an engaging, lively style."

Democracy

"For those who know little about Friedman, and wish to know more, this book is a good place to start... well documented."

Journal of Markets & Morality

"An absorbing book about the life, battles, and some of the ideas of a great economist. Definitely worth reading to help understand the development of an extraordinary individual."

—Gary S. Becker, Nobel Laureate in Economics

"Lanny Ebenstein gives us a careful and illuminating exposition of the life and ideas of Milton Friedman. A genuinely rewarding read."

—George P. Shultz, Thomas W. and Susan B. Ford Distinguished Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

"A powerful book about the most influential economist since Adam Smith."

—Martin Anderson, former domestic and economic policy advisor to President Reagan

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230604094
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 1/6/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 967,817
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Lanny Ebenstein is the author or co-author of eight books in the history of economic and political thought, including Friedrich Hayek: A Biography, Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek, and, with his late father, William Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers: Plato to the Present. Ebenstein received his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He resides in Santa Barbara, California.

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Table of Contents

Childhood and Youth

• Rutgers

• University of Chicago

• Columbia

• Rose

• Washington

• New York

• World War II

• National Bureau and Controversy

• Department of Economics

• "The Methodology of Positive Economics"

Essays in Positive Economics

• Family

• Teacher

• Keynes

A Theory of the Consumption Function

A Monetary History of the United States

• Chicago School of Economics

• From Economics to Advocacy

Capitalism and Freedom

• Goldwater and Travel

• AEA President

• Colleagues

Newsweek Columnist

• Policy Proposals

• Nixon and Chile

• Nobel Prize

• Hoover Institution

Free to Choose

• Reagan

• Influence

• Hayek and Ideas

• School Vouchers and Drugs

• Recent Work * Friedman Prize

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2011

    Friedman "si," Barnes & Noble "no"

    Friedman is great, but Barnes & Noble customer service is the pits. I accidentally "bought" this book on my first day, trying only to figure out the price. I've now been waiting nearly half an hour on-line for a B&N customer service person to "chat" with me.

    If this is indicative of Nook and B&N, this is a giant rip-off.

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