Saving the Friedman Legacy

Just when all the financial excitement was beginning, Paul Krugman wrote an article for the New York Review of Books entitled ‘Who was Milton Friedman?’ Was he the economists’ economist, profound theorist, universally admired by professional economists? Or was he the simplistic ideologue, populariser and propagandist of monetarism and the free market doctrine, whose ideas proved unworkable in practice and whose intellectual honesty was at least questionable? Krugman’s answer was that Friedman was both of these.

The problem with this dichotomy was that Friedman, the simplistic populariser, gained huge credibility from Friedman, the profound theorist. And his intellectual dishonesty was evident in his populist exploitation of that credibility. For example, on 1st September, 1976, Friedman, addressed the Institute of Economic Affairs in London. The title of his talk was ‘The Road to Economic Freedom: The Steps from Here to There’. His prescription for Britain was the ’shock treatment’ of low flat rate taxes and wholesale privatisation, both of which a few years later the Thatcher government implemented.
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