The Book: Milton Friedman: A concise guide to the ideas and influence of the free-market economist by Eamonn Butler
The Gist: As the subtitle suggests, this short book provides a concise overview of the ideas and influence of the late economist, Milton Friedman
The Quote: “[T]he supporters of tariffs treat it as self-evident that the creation of jobs is a desirable end, in and of itself, regardless of what the persons employed do. That is clearly wrong. If all we want are jobs, we can create any number—for example, have people dig holes and then fill them up again, or perform other useless tasks. Work is sometimes its own reward. Mostly, however, it is the price we pay to get the things we want. Our real objective is not just jobs but productive jobs–jobs that will mean more goods and services to consume.”
The Good: The book includes numerous direct quotes from Friedman . . .
The Blah: . . . but far too many of the quotes are taken from an interview in Playboy magazine rather than from Friedman’s own writings.
The Verdict: Aristotle has often been described as the philosopher of common sense. Similarly, Milton Friedman could be described as the economist of common sense. Friedman’s writings are often so clear and straightforward (unusual for modern economists) that when reading him you often find yourself wondering how anyone could disagree. Even the uber-liberal Paul Krugman, admits that Friedman was “One of the most important economic thinkers of all time…”
Butler does an excellent job of explaining Friedman’s ideas and why they became so influential. From school vouchers to the end of the military draft, the effects of Friedman’s ideas on public policy can be found everywhere—not only in America but throughout the world. No matter where you stand on free markets, if you are interested in economics, policy, or the history of ideas you should learn more about this giant of economic thought.
The Recommendation: If you aren’t familiar with Friedman this is the best short introduction you can find.