Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Reflections on Friedman

I’ve just been reading the reactions to Milton Friedman’s death yesterday, at the age of 94. Although I would never consider myself an expert on his work, I have taught Friedman’s works often, and have been intending to write on him more extensively, in the context of reflecting more generally on liberal and libertarian philosophy. For the moment, I’ll just re-post the observation from Levitt and Dubner’s Freakonomics blog:

He was truly a revolutionary thinker. People do not realize how revolutionary because so many of his ideas that were thought to be crazy when he suggested them eventually came to be seen as obvious…

Levitt and Dubner capture one of the elements that has always fascinated me about Friedman’s work: the ways in which the reception of ideas depends so much on how the historical moment is prepared to receive them – and, at the same time, the ways in which a clear and cogent articulation of ideas can fundamentally shape the trajectory of historical trends, given the right historical opportunity. Friedman poses a particularly clear example of the complex interactions between a thinker and their time – an issue to which I can perhaps return in more depth at a later point.

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