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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: Rose Friedman

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rose Friedman

Rose Friedman, an economist and author, the wife Milton Friedman, and sister of Aaron Director died of heart failure in her home in Davis, California on August 28, 2009.  The Wall Street Journal provides an eulogy ("Rose of Freedom," Wall Street Journal, August 20, 2009, part of which is provided below.
The Journal of Economic Literature recently described the last quarter century of rapid economic growth and rising living standards as "The Age of Friedman," after Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize winning economist. The editors could as fairly have called it the Age of Friedmans to include Milton's wife of 68 years and collaborator, Rose Friedman, who died Tuesday at age 98.
Rose was small in stature like Milton—both were less than five-feet tall—but their ideas were of towering impact. That was especially true in the postwar era through the 1970s, when statist economists dominated most universities and national capitals. The Friedmans re-popularized the principles of economic freedom, which led to the Reagan-Thatcher ascendancy and the spread of capitalist ideas to China, Eastern Europe and even dirigiste India.

"Our central theme in public advocacy," wrote Rose in "Two Lucky People," their joint autobiography, "has been the promotion of human freedom. . . . it underlies our opposition to rent control and general wage and price controls, our support for educational choice . . . an all-volunteer army, limitation of government spending, legalization of drugs, privatizing Social Security, free trade, and the deregulation of industry."

It is said that Rose was the only one who ever won a debate with Milton. Once in a discussion on tax policy between Milton and economist Arthur Laffer, she intervened and admonished them: "I think we should cut tax rates way below the revenue maximizing rate." We asked her not long ago if she thought the recent economic troubles and revival of statist policies was a repudiation of Milton's legacy. "Oh heavens no," she said. "Milton's ideas are timeless." So are hers.

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