Milton Friedman: The Last Conservative
The first full biography of America’s most renowned economist.
Milton Friedman was, alongside John Maynard Keynes, the most influential economist of the twentieth century. His work was instrumental in the turn toward free markets that defined the 1980s, and his full-throated defenses of capitalism and freedom resonated with audiences around the world. It’s no wonder the last decades of the twentieth century have been called “the Age of Friedman”—or that analysts have sought to hold him responsible for both the rising prosperity and the social ills of recent times.
In Milton Friedman, the first full biography to employ archival sources, the historian Jennifer Burns tells Friedman’s extraordinary story with the nuance it deserves. She provides lucid and lively context for his groundbreaking work on everything from why dentists earn less than doctors, to the vital importance of the money supply, to inflation and the limits of government planning and stimulus. She traces Friedman’s longstanding collaborations with women, including the economist Anna Schwartz, as well as his complex relationships with powerful figures such as Fed Chair Arthur Burns and Treasury Secretary George Shultz, and his direct interventions in policymaking at the highest levels. Most of all, Burns explores Friedman’s key role in creating a new economic vision and a modern American conservatism. The result is a revelatory biography of America’s first neoliberal—and perhaps its last great conservative.