Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Yesterday Was Milton Friedman Day....

did you do anything in your class? At the very least did you see The Power of Choice, his biography which was broadcast on many (sadly, not all) PBS stations? It was a very interesting look into the life of one of the 20th century's most influential economists. I learned a couple of interesting things about him professionally, such as his involvement in getting rid of the draft; as well as personally, such as how he met his wife, Rose.

I was particularly struck by the number of people who mentioned how he spoke to other people. He tried not to talk down to anyone. A phrase used frequently was "He was a teacher." I think that struck me when I first was exposed to him, and I know it struck many of my students. That's one reason why I've recommended his Free to Choose videos in previous blogs. (See my December 4, 2006 entry, TV Worth Watching (Part II).

While watching last night, they used one of his quotes. Something to the effect that "Those who strive for equality before freedom, usually don't get either; and those who put freedom before equality eventually end up with both." This was an idea of his that appeared in many places. And you may not agree it with it. I know I question it. But, when I heard him repeat it last night, I thought it would make an excellent discussion starter for a class when discussing economic systems, economic institutions or the role of government in the economy.

This can be particularly effective if you also talk about those same economic concepts and the perceived policy trade-off of equity and efficiency. "Is it true that systems are made more equitable at the expense of efficiency? Or that they are made more efficient at the expense of equity?" The argument is that efficiency is driven by competition and competition is inherently inequitable.

What do you think? What did you do, if anything? Would you spend time discussion Dr. Friedman with your students? Your comments are welcome.

Posted by TSchilling at 8:49 AM Comments (0)

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