As many of you have heard, Rose Friedman died yesterday of heart failure. She was a sweet and graceful, but tough, lady. I first met her at the 1974 Austrian Scholars’ conference in South Royalton, Vermont. I sat with her and Milton at dinner, invited to do so because I had just seen their son, David, in California a few days earlier and they wanted news of him. That was where I first learned of her and Milton’s friendship with their Vermont neighbor, John Kenneth Galbraith. When I expressed surprise at her statement that they were friends, both she and Milton told me that we should separate our views on politics from our views on friends. Suitably castigated, but gently so, I learned the lesson and have applied it since.

I still remembering arguing with her after Hoover’s memorial service for George Stigler in 1992 (he died in December 1991) about whether we could plan for what to do in a car accident: I said that if we thought it through, we probably could and she was adamant that we couldn’t. I think I proved her wrong in avoiding a major car accident near Denver in June 1994, only months after attending a traffic school in which we thought through various scenarios. We also spoke about her great pain at the loss of her beloved, Milton, at Hoover’s memorial service for Milton in January 2007. She still spoke about it when I visited her in her home in Davis in November 2007. I’ve never before known someone that age who was so in love with her husband.

My favorite passage from her autobiography, Two Lucky People, co-authored with Milton, shows her strong sense of justice–her view that government should not treat well-known or wealthy people better than they treat others, and also that government should limit its exercise of arbitrary power. Here it is:

We flew home to Boston en route to Vermont, and had what for us was a unique and very annoying experience clearing customs in Boston. Believing that we were free to go, we were calling for a porter when an official tapped Milton on the shoulder and asked us to accompany him and a female official to a side office. Once inside, they curtly demanded to see Milton’s wallet and my handbag, and proceeded to search them thoroughly without telling us what they were looking for. In the course of examining Milton’s wallet, the male official came across one of his business cards and his demeanor changed instantly. Now respectful rather than overbearing, he said something like, “You should probably be questioning me, not the other way around” and immediately let us go. We were as annoyed by his change in demeanor on recognizing Milton’s name as by being singled out for close examination without being informed what if anything we were suspected of. As it happened, we had nothing special to declare, but innocence is no defense against bureaucracy.

“Innocence is no defense against bureaucracy.” What a great line.