I am deeply saddened to hear that Milton Friedman, Nobel laureate economist, champion of market education reform, and a truly wonderful human being, has passed away at the age of 94.
Dr. Friedman’s writings on education policy, both individually and with his wife, Rose, were the seminal theoretical works of the American school choice movement. And with each passing year, the evidence supporting that theoretical analysis has mounted.
He believed that the system of education most compatible with a free society was one in which families were free to determine how and where their children were educated, and in which every family had ready access to the educational marketplace. Though an economist, and someone who believed that market provision of education would be more cost-effective than state-run monopoly schooling, he did not base his case for educational liberty on dollars and cents. He simply argued that government-operated schools were not only unnecessary to a free society, but were, in fact, incompatible with it.
Though best known for the products of his keen mind, his poise and personal character were no less impressive. When I first met him at a conference in 1998, a protestor hit the then-86-year-old in the face with a cream pie. He shrugged it off as though it were routine. Though inundated with endorsement requests, he refused to attach his name to anything that he had not written himself unless he had personally read it and agreed with it 100 percent. He made it a point to never say anything about a person in private that he would not be willing to say in public.
He was a man of integrity, humor, intelligence, candor, fortitude, and humility. I will miss him.