Walter E. Williams

Nobel Laureate and Professor Milton Friedman, at age 94, succumbed to heart failure on Nov. 16. While the man is gone, those of us who hold personal liberty as society's highest end will always remember his steadfast support of the principles of personal liberty.

Professor Friedman, above all, was an economist's economist. During his professional life, his research on statistical techniques, consumption behavior and monetary theory became part and parcel of today's accepted wisdom among economists. His research on monetary theory and the role of money in an economy has provided central banks worldwide with the knowledge, whether they use it or not, for monetary stability.

Professor Friedman will surely be remembered for these intellectual contributions, but what he'll be remembered for the most is his steadfast support for personal liberty. In 1947, he joined with Friedrich Hayek and 40 other free-market academics, mostly economists of international distinction, to form the Mont Pelerin Society. The Society's founding purpose was to reduce the academic isolation among liberty-oriented scholars at a time when socialism was seen as the wave of the future.

The Mont Pelerin Society now boasts more than 500 members worldwide, eight of whom have been Nobel Laureates. I'm proud to be a member.

Friedman's first big step into public policy issues, as an indefatigable defender of personal liberty, came in his 1962 book "Capitalism and Freedom." In it he argued that educational vouchers were the solution to poor education; free markets make racial discrimination more costly; government regulations are the primary sources for harmful monopolies; and Social Security is an unfair and unsustainable system. At the time these weren't popular ideas, even seen as heresy, but today they are much more widely accepted.

In 1980, Professor Friedman co-authored "Free to Choose" with his wife, Rose Friedman, which was written as a follow-up to his 10-part PBS series with the same name. Among the topics discussed: The Great Depression was not a failure of capitalism, as so often claimed, but a failure of government, mainly the Federal Reserve Bank and the U.S. Congress; our welfare system creates permanent wards of the state; and we should decriminalize drugs by treating abuse as a medical problem.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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