Hating Milton Friedman

A proud father of global prosperity.


Credit: Michael C. Moynihan

When Milton Friedman received the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, a protester disrupted the ceremony with shouts of "down with capitalism, freedom for Chile." Three decades later, in The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein repackaged that outburst for a new generation of hecklers, blaming Friedman for Augusto Pinochet's brutal dictatorship and the U.S. occupation of Iraq. It mattered little that Friedman had explicitly denounced both Pinochet's human rights abuses and the Iraq war.

The anti-Friedman movement has also manifested itself in the form of this sticker, which began appearing on walls, bus stops, and newspaper stands in Washington, D.C., in early 2009. The stark black-and-white design features Friedman's smiling face above the caption "Milton Friedman/Proud Father of Global Misery."

But by making a principled case for free markets, international trade, and individual rights, Friedman actually helped create the opposite of global misery. Millions of people continue to be lifted out of poverty worldwide based on these principles. If more politicians had listened to Friedman's warnings about loose money and ill-conceived interventions in the economy, we might have avoided the latest round of economic misery as well.