Thursday, November 16, 2006


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Milton Friedman has passed away. The Nobel Laureate, champion of laissez faire capitalism, can lay fair claim to be the most influential American economist of his generation. The strutting capitalism of 80s and 90s America must have looked toward Friedman as its role model. He consulted two US presidents and Margaret Thatcher, took the Chicago School to intoxicating highs, was known for walking out of interviews if he thought the questions were stupid, and apparently never lost an argument. As an impish aside, I think he may have only indulged in arguments that he knew he could win, or in which, in Hans Bethe's words, he already had an unfair advantage. After all, why would a man who favoured virtually unbridled deregulation be always right?

I will always remember Friedman's most interesting argument in The Corporation, in which he said that if corporate officials indulge in behaviour that is moral by many people's standards (such as compromising on profits by engaging in more environmentally benign practices), they are actually being immoral by shareholders' standards. More correctly, the only definition of morality that matters for corporations, is that which benefits shareholders...

A provocative and brilliant man who lived a provocative life.


Anonymous Chetan said...

Thought I should share this touching anecdotal obituary.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

That's a nice obituary. Thanks.
Sometime by the way, I want to get your views on libertarianism's take on environmentalism.

2:03 PM  

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