.. Friedman's stupendous scholarly achievements alone justify commemoration of the centenary of his birth.
But at least as important as Friedman's scholarship was his lucid and energetic public advocacy of limited government and free markets. He explained with unmatched clarity how a modern economy's complexities, nuances, and dynamism almost always thwart even the best-intentioned efforts by government officials to intervene into markets.
No one equaled Friedman's skill at explaining how free markets succeed at coordinating the activities of legions of individuals to produce the goods and services that we today take for granted. Likewise, no one equaled his skill at explaining how government regulators are typically oblivious to the complexity of the coordination achieved by markets. Being oblivious, regulators' interventions too often obstruct this market coordination.
.. Calling the military's seizure of years of labor from young men "slavery" reveals the fact that draftees - like plantation slaves of old - are forced against their will to work for others and on terms dictated by others.
.. He was, he always insisted, not a conservative but, rather, a liberal - a true liberal, in the original meaning of that term.
Being a classical liberal, Friedman vigorously championed not only economic freedoms but also freedoms emphasized by many folks on the political left, such as freedom of speech and of assembly. It speaks volumes of Friedman's principles that he, the owlish and dedicated scholar so beloved by many establishment conservatives for his support of free enterprise, was among the most vocal and unwavering opponents of the "war on drugs." He insisted, with characteristic wit, that "the government has no more right to tell me what goes into my mouth than it has to tell me what comes out of my mouth."
Truly great men and women are rare. What they all share is the courage of their convictions, the wisdom to distinguish cant from reality, and enormous energy and ability in working to make the world a better place. Milton Friedman was one such genuinely great man.