Samuelson vs. Friedman
By David Henderson
Milton Friedman. Friedman had a solid MV = PQ doctrine from which he deviated very little all his life. By the way, he’s about as smart a guy as you’ll meet. He’s as persuasive as you hope not to meet. And to be candid, I should tell you that I stayed on good terms with Milton for more than 60 years. But I didn’t do it by telling him exactly everything I thought about him. He was a libertarian to the point of nuttiness. People thought he was joking, but he was against licensing surgeons and so forth. And when I went quarterly to the Federal Reserve meetings, and he was there, we agreed only twice in the course of the business cycle. (bold added)
Many of the commenters on Tyler’s post nailed the problem with Samuelson’s lines above. My favorite was Silas Barta, who wrote:
Hyuk hyuk hyuk, that’s just so funny, to wanna certify surgeon capability some way other than imprisoning folks who won’t join a government cartel! What a side-splitter!
Next he’s going to say we shouldn’t use slaves in the army! Oh, what a riot.
Let me elaborate on that. The young interviewer, Conor Clarke, owes a huge debt to Milton Friedman, who did more for him and for every healthy American male under age 54 than Samuelson ever did. I’m referring, of course, to Friedman’s “nutty libertarian” crusade against the draft. The draft ended in 1973 and among the leaders who pushed to end it were Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan, W. Allen Wallis, William Meckling, and Walter Oi, all of whom were or are strong believers in the free market. Meanwhile where was Samuelson? He was AWOL. He was represented by a Senator, Ted Kennedy, who was one of the staunchest proponents of the draft and, if Samuelson ever wrote against the draft or ever tried to talk Kennedy out of it, I can find no record of it. In 1980, when Senator Sam Nunn was trying to bring back the draft and I circulated an economists’ statement against the draft, Samuelson refused to sign. Friedman, by contrast, not only served on President Nixon’s Commission on the All-Volunteer Force but also lobbied Congressmen personally against the draft. For more on Friedman’s role in ending the draft, see my “Milton Friedman: A Tribute.”
Here’s what I wrote in http://www.davidrhenderson.com/articles/0199_thankyou.html, a tribute to my old boss, William Meckling:
Between 1948 and 1973, here’s what you knew if you were a healthy male born in the U.S.A.: the government could pluck you out of almost any activity you were pursuing, cut your hair, and send you anywhere in the world. If the United States was at war, you might have to kill people, and you might return home in a body bag.
Friedman helped change that. We could use more such nuts.