week I lost a hero. He died at the age of 94 after a life of
influencing the world with bold ideas, reasoned arguments and
remarkable energy. I first met him in high school. I didn't meet him
personally, but I saw a TV series he starred in as well as produced.
But he wasn't a movie or an entertainment star – he was far
from it, at just 5 feet tall. He wasn't an exceptional athlete, he
didn't create a successful business and become wealthy and he never
held a political office of any importance. Yet, this Jewish immigrant
strongly influenced my life and became a champion of liberty on the
planet in an immeasurable way. Years later, I met him again, along with
his equally brilliant wife and it became a truly memorable moment in
my life. He gave me a bit of personal advice that I want to share with
you a little bit later (and let you see the videos which were a part of
my first introduction). But first some background on my hero, Milton
up poor and moved around a lot. My focus was on day to
day life struggles and not getting beat up as the perennial new kid in
class. I was largely unaware of the battle between political and
economic systems captured in the Communism/Socialism vs Capitalism
struggles encompassing the planet in the 1900s. Fortunately my
History/Economics teacher had a bit more macro view of the world and
decided it would be a good idea to dedicate a few classes to show a TV
series. While many kids used the darkened room to catch up on sleep, I
intently watched what was, to my young mind, the most provocative work
I had seen. It talked about freedom, but not with seemingly ancient
historical references of religious persecution, but in the context of
today's societies with examples from around the world.
series was called Free
To Choose and explained how markets and
voluntary exchange organize activity and improve people's lives. It was
highly critical of centralized planning whether in a socialistic
government or a well intentioned democracy as being inefficient and,
more importantly, depriving people of liberty by taking their money and
limiting their choices (or forcing choices upon them). It emphasized
that free markets are a cornerstone of freedom since many of life's
choices revolve around economics. (Remarkably there was no script, all
of Milton's comments to the camera were extemporaneous.)
video, I was able to put some sense into how the world works and what
makes the United States and other free countries great. Yes, it's
freedom of religion and democracy, but more importantly it was the fact
that people were free to make life choices and these invariably revolve
around how they make money, how much they keep and what they spend it
refers to Milton Friedman as a nobel winning economist, but
that minimizes his contributions. It's true he wrote works on Federal
monetary policy which influenced governments around the world, but
Milton was really a freedom fighter. He championed liberty using
dollars and sense so that the everyday person could understand the
impact on their own lives. He advocated individual autonomy and
personal freedoms in the mid 20th Century when such ideas were
disdained and governments were becoming increasingly parochial. His
ideas altered the development of our planet pushing it further towards
the ideas Milton
- Personal retirement accounts instead of
government mandated and
- School choice. Our Universities are the
the world and our public schools are not. What's the big difference?
- Abolishing the military draft.
- Negative income tax to
eliminate poverty which became the foundation for today's Earned Income
- School vouchers. Rich kids get a great
anywhere, poor kids should have the same choices.
- Investments in human capital to maximize
the efficiency of the most
- Minimizing government mandated trade
associations which restrict options and drive up costs (such as the
American Medical Association).
- A single rate flat income tax now
being adopted by a wide range of governments.
- Legalizing prostitution as a matter of
of drugs as an individual freedom.
After I had some business success
, I decided
to reach out to my long time hero to see if I
could meet him personally. I called his office and he surprisingly
accepted my request to meet and chat with him. I spent some time before
the visit thinking about what one question I could ask.
I flew up to
San Francisco and visited him and his wife Rose in their San Francisco
apartment. They offered me a cold glass of water and we talked about my
Internet and business experience. Then I asked Milton the question I
had come up with. "How do you make the world a better place?"
answer was, "If you want to improve the world you have to create more
capital. While creating non-profits makes people feel better, the only
way to fundamentally improve living conditions is to create more
business." I left the meeting puzzling over that answer. It was a bit
more abstract than I was hoping for. Later he sent me some photocopied
pages from several books with a nice note.
Over the years I've had time
to think about his response. I've come to the conclude it was the most
succinct and accurate response possible. Capital is gasoline for the
great engine of economic development which creates jobs, grows wealth
and responds to consumers needs and desires.
Milton's life was not about gaining personal power or wealth, but about
sharing ideas. On hearing about Milton's passing, I wanted to make sure
I'm doing what I can to carry on those ideas. So I partnered with Bob
Chitester who runs the IdeaChannel
which will now broadcast the entire
ground breaking Free
series online for free.
Thanks for all you did Milton. I will miss you.
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