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He was an economist of the Chicago school, and thus believed in empiricism: he always argued, methodologically, that theories should be judged, as per his famous 1953 essay “The Methodology of Positive Economics,” on their ability to predict, not on whether their assumptions seemed to be true. He thought theories should be tested always against reality. Despite that fact that most of his political writings were based in this sort of pragmatic argument based on observable results, he believed ultimately, as he said in a 1990 speech in Jerusalem, that “the free market’s main justification is, in my opinion, its moral strength, not its superior efficiency, though that is now proven.”
Milton Friedman was never a politician. He could never make things happen. He could only explain why they should, and let us decide. But still, to a large degree because of him, the world is a different, and better, place.
When his first major work on politics, Capitalism and Freedom, came out in 1962, many of the best and brightest among us still believed that the controlled economies of the Soviet bloc might indeed someday bury us, and that government fiscal manipulations a la Keynes were the key to a lasting and unmarred prosperity—mostly by fooling people into misunderstanding what was really going on in the economy by the fake bursts of prosperity that inflation can create in the short term (but never, as Friedman helped prove, in the long term). Friedman foresaw the 70s stagflation crisis, and his monetarist ideas helped guide the Federal Reserve policy that have mostly curbed inflation since the early 1980s. With nothing but persuasion on his side, he’s steered the ship of the world in a better direction.
To the extent that we choose to heed Friedman in the future, we’ll have more even choices we can make for ourselves--and be richer for it.