Originally created 11/17/06

Free-market guru saw ideas prosper

SAN FRANCISCO - Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who advocated an unfettered free market and had the ear of three U.S. presidents, died Thursday at age 94.

Mr. Friedman died in San Francisco, said Robert Fanger, a spokesman for the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation in Indianapolis. He did not know the cause of death.

"Milton's passion for freedom and liberty has influenced more lives than he ever could possibly know," said Gordon St. Angelo, the foundation's president and CEO, in a statement. "His writings and ideas have transformed the minds of U.S. presidents, world leaders, entrepreneurs and freshmen economic majors alike."

In more than a dozen books, a column in Newsweek magazine and a TV show on PBS, Mr. Friedman championed individual freedom in economics and politics. The longtime University of Chicago professor pioneered a school of thought that became known as the Chicago school of economics.

His theory of monetarism, adopted in part by the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations, opposed the traditional Keynesian economics that had dominated U.S. policy since the New Deal. He was a member of Mr. Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board.

His work in consumption analysis, monetary history and stabilization policy earned him the Nobel Prize in economics in 1976.

"He has used a brilliant mind to advance a moral vision - the vision of a society where men and women are free, free to choose, but where government is not as free to override their decisions," President Bush said in 2002. "That vision has changed America, and it is changing the world."

Mr. Friedman favored a policy of steady, moderate growth in the money supply, opposed wage and price controls and criticized the Federal Reserve when it tried to fine-tune the economy.

A believer in the principles of 18th century economist Adam Smith, he consistently argued that individual freedom should rule economic policy. Outspoken and controversial, Mr. Friedman saw his theories attacked by many traditional economists including Harvard's John Kenneth Galbraith, who endorsed wage and price controls.

Mr. Friedman acknowledged that "pure capitalism" did not exist but said that nations that cherished freedom must strive to keep the economy as close to the ideal as possible.

He said government should allow the free market to operate to solve inflation and other economic problems. But he also urged the adoption of a "negative income tax" in which people who earn less than a certain amount would get money from the government.

He lived to see free market reforms spread in the former communist world and Latin America but played down his own influence.

"I hope what I wrote contributed to that, but it was not the moving force," Mr. Friedman told The New York Sun in March.


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