A five-minute guide to Milton Friedman

Updated: 
Milton FriedmanNobel Prize-winning American economist Milton Friedman had a profound impact on the economics research agenda in the second half of the 20th century.

Later an economic adviser to US president Ronald Reagan, Friedman also spent many years teaching at the University of Chicago. He died in 2006.


Who he was
Milton Friedman was born in 1912. He went on to become an economist, statistician and writer who taught at the University of Chicago for more than three decades.

Noted for his support for free markets and opposition to some of the "initial" conclusions of British economist John Maynard Keynes, he was awarded a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1976.

What he believed
In the 1950s, Friedman began to challenge parts of Keynesian theory and started to advocate opposing government policies based on beliefs held by Keynes, who is widely regarded as the most influential economist of the 20th century.

He then promoted an alternative macroeconomic policy known as "monetarism" in the 1960s, and argued that rising inflation was an inevitable consequence of governments taking action to reduce unemployment below a "natural" rate (as advocated by Keynes).

Other ideas that he advocated included freely floating exchange rates, the abolition of medical licenses, a negative income tax and education vouchers.

How he changed the world
Described by The Economist as "the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century", Friedman was an economic adviser to Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

It was this role that enabled him to play a part in the scrapping of military conscription in the US - a change that he once described as his proudest accomplishment.

More recently, meanwhile, Friedman's monetary theory influenced the Federal Reserve's reaction to the global financial crisis of 2007.