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May 06, 2014

"Professor Richard Epstein tribute to Milton Friedman"

One world-class mind pays tribute to another. A cool five minutes.

See also Deirdre McCloskey's "Milton".

His goodness is of course in part intellectual, even Jewish. He is a man of the book. In the Money Seminar, and anywhere else he's standing, he asks always, persistently "How do you know?" It's a terrifying question, since most of the time we can't say how we know, because we don't know. The question feels like an assault if you're not ready for it. But of course Milton is seriously curious, looking for enlightenment, ready to take this or that side in the schule (the school of Hillel might claim that inflation is a wage-price spiral; the school of Friedman claims on the contrary that inflation is everywhere and always a monetary phenomenon). I am told [How do you know, Deirdre?] that when people these days say to him how good he looks, considering he is 90, he sometimes replies sharply, "How do you know? Are you an expert in gerontology?"

. . . 

But Milton's goodness is not only intellectual; or to be more accurate, the goodnesses are intertwined. He's hard to argue with, but never unfairly. He never cheats---as his friend George Stigler, for example, did regularly (Milton, a loving and faith-keeping man, would never agree with such a characterization of George; but even Milton makes mistakes, as about the endogeneity of the money supply). He is just. Milton cares for freedom because he puts tremendous weight on the dignity of his fellow humans. Over and over he says: Laissez faire, let the person herself decide for herself. An echt Mensch.

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William Sjostrom

As with the quarrel between John Lott and Steve Levitt, I am always baffled by McCloskey's vituperative hostility towards George Stigler. Someday I will figure out its source. I recall Paul Heyne once saying to me that "George Stigler is not a nice man", but in my dealings with him, I always found him polite and helpful.

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