Milton Friedman, one of the most influential free market economists of the 20th century, was born 107 years ago this week, on July 31, 1912. While many are aware of the tremendous influence that he had on conservative leaders such as President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher, it is also important to review his influence on YAF and young people as well.

Milton Friedman was born in New York City and earned his undergraduate degree from Rutgers, before going on to earn his master’s degree in economics from the University of Chicago. After work as a statistician in the United States military during World War II, he earned his PhD from Columbia University and became a longtime professor at the University of Chicago.

Today, Milton Friedman is synonymous with the Chicago School of Economics, which is a very pro-free market line of thought. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, he was the most vocal opponent of Keynesian economics, which had dominated US economic policy since the 1940’s. His insights led him to predict the stagflation of the 1970’s as well as to propose how to get the economy going again. His contributions led him to win the 1976 Nobel Prize in economics.

In the 1980’s, with the rise of President Reagan in the United States and Prime Minister Thatcher in the United Kingdom, Friedman’s influence on policy began to grow. The ‘Reagan Recovery’ of the 1980’s can be attributed to Reagan’s pro-free market economic policies, which were influenced by Milton Friedman and other key economists.

Milton Friedman worked closely with YAF for many years, often addressing student audiences. He also did a short video series for Young America’s Foundation, making the case for free enterprise over socialism. These videos can be viewed on YAF’s YouTube channel.

Today, with the rising popularity of socialism on college campuses across the country, Milton Friedman’s ideas are as important as ever. In order to keep the American economy working, we need to continue to pursue the economic vision that Friedman had of free markets, limited government, and personal responsibility.


Karl Stahlfeld is the associate director of YAF’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Free Enterprise.

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