Rose Friedman, R.I.P.


Rose Friedman, who was partner and collaborator with her late husband Milton on many of his most important works of political thought and advocacy, has died of heart failure. Though her birth records in her native Russia are lost, she was believed to have been 99. The Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation has a notice of her death, which also sums up the achievements of her life:

She will be remembered both as a talented economist and an influential advocate of freedom. Her economic work helped to discredit the idea of government management of the economy, rolling back policies that were hindering wealth creation and thus helping extend the blessings of prosperity to millions around the world. And as a standard-bearer for human liberty, she contributed to the galvanizing of public opinion – especially in the 1980s – against the growing encroachments of intrusive government…..

Her most important contribution was the 1980 book Free to Choose, which she co-wrote with her husband, and the accompanying ten-part PBS series. Both were highly successful – the book topped the bestseller list for five weeks – and had a profound impact on the public understanding of freedom. At a time when the nation's confidence in its founding ideas was at an all-time low, Free to Choose played a decisive role in restoring America's faith in liberty.

Because she was collaborator on his major works of popular political and economic philosophy and advocacy, most importantly Capitalism and Freedom and Free to Choose, she deserves her fair share of the glory and regard her husband Milton got. Consult my March 2007 article in Reason magazine for the ideas and accomplishments of the Friedmans in helping make America a place that is in some respects actually freer, and in most respects an intellectual environment where the idea of human liberty has wider play than it did before they did their long, arduous work of explaining the benefits of liberty, often against great opposition.

Here's how she and Milton summed up what they thought they were doing, toward the end of their memoir, Two Lucky People:

Our central theme in public advocacy has been the promotion of human freedom….it underlies our opposition to rent control and general wage and price controls, our support for educational choice, privatizing radio and television channels, an all-volunteer army, limitation of government spending, legalization of drugs, privatizing Social Security, free trade, and the deregulation of industry and private life to the fullest extent possible.

The specific chosen legacy for her and her husband was the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, dedicated to the issue they decided was most vital moving forward to ensure a freer society: helping separate education from the bureaucratic and controlling hand of the state.