Pubdate: Mon, 20 Nov 2006
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2006 San Francisco Examiner
Bookmark: (Milton Friedman)


Suppose you lived in one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities. In 
fact, centuries hence, historians reflexively would name it along 
with Athens, Paris, Rome and London for its contributions to the 
arts, science, political economy, philosophy. Whom would you name as 
your city's most influential citizen?

Nancy Pelosi? She does own at least a footnote in history as the 
first female speaker of the House of Representatives. But her legacy 
is yet to be made; whatever happens or doesn't happen on Capitol Hill 
over the next two years may leave her contented with her name on an 
office building annex.

Perhaps we should look to the arts, always more edifying than 
legislation anyway. Michael Tilson Thomas, Jerry Garcia, Allen 
Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac -- we'd better stop, the list being 
inexhaustible. San Francisco's cultural impact, for better or worse, 
is worldwide.

These ruminations come with the passing, last week, at 94, of Milton 
Friedman, probably the world's most renowned economist. This most 
influential of scholars adopted San Francisco as his home 30 years 
ago at about the time he won the Nobel Prize for Economics.

Though he took up residence on Russian Hill, his life as a public 
intellectual was taken to heart, and his recommendations put into 
practice, far and wide -- but not so much in The City. That is 
because he stood philosophically athwart the "progressivism" that had 
become a hallmark of this urban laboratory by the Bay.

Friedman's monetarism, embraced by the Federal Reserve Board, gave us 
a quarter-century of low inflation. His eloquent championing of 
free-market economics grew into the formal model on which many 
formerly socialist countries -- including those of the old Eastern 
Bloc, China and Vietnam -- base their economic policies.

His insight that economic and political freedoms are unbreakably 
related inspired dissidents on every continent, and we rather wish 
some of the Republicans who called him teacher understood why 
opportunity-seeking immigrants should be placed in that context. 
Likewise, without Milton Friedman, we would not have an all-volunteer 
military, which is so high-tech and mentally invigorating that it is 
beyond John Kerry's poor powers to comprehend.

Friedman, in the true San Francisco tradition, defied the 
contradictions of political parties because of his consistent 
libertarianism. He foresaw the failure of the drug war because, as a 
massive statist mobilization, it created a hideously violent 
underground economy. He was a friend to many in The City, even if The 
City's regulation-minded political class couldn't befriend him.

Milton Friedman has died, his ideas universally vindicated. Could we 
not have at least a street named for him? How does "Free Market Street" sound? 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake