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Milton Friedman: A Biography Hardcover – January 23, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; First Edition edition (January 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403976279
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403976277
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,971,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Ebenstein creates a picture of Milton Friedman, one of the leading economists and political philosophers of the twentieth century, as not just a revered economic theorist but also a public intellectual. Ebenstein begins with Friedman's childhood and early career, moving through his long tenure as an economist at the University of Chicago, and completes the book with a picture of Friedman as a renowned public figure. Completed before Friedman's death, in November 2006, the book espouses Friedman's beliefs in libertarianism, the free market, and capitalism. He was known for his controversial stances and powerful influence on leaders of the day. Through lengthy interviews with Friedman and his wife, Rose, a picture of him as family man, Nobel Prize winner, and advisor to multiple presidents emerges. Ebenstein's attention to detail and copious quotes from others who knew Friedman well make for an engaging picture of one of America's most important economic theorists. Gail Whitcomb
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"A worthy homage to Friedman's ideas."
--The Financial Times
 
"[A] rounded, readable portrait of a man whose impact on the lives of millions in the 20th century is measured not by his opponents and enemies, but by the individuals he converted."
--The Chicago Sun-Times
 
"Quite handy. It marshals lots of material, and to devotees the bibliographical essay at the end may be worth the cover price in itself."
--The Economist
 
"This biography doesn't skimp on the details of Friedman's life. Well written, thoroughly researched, and easy to read, it successfully explains how Friedman's ideas continue to resonate."
--Library Journal
 
"A surprisingly readable, succinct portrait of the combative economist."
--Bloomberg News
 
"Ebenstein covers a lot of material with an engaging, lively style."
--Democracy
"For those who know little about Friedman, and wish to know more, this book is a good place to start... well documented."
--Journal of Markets & Morality

"An absorbing book about the life, battles, and some of the ideas of a great economist. Definitely worth reading to help understand the development of an extraordinary individual."
--Gary S. Becker, Nobel Laureate in Economics

"Lanny Ebenstein gives us a careful and illuminating exposition of the life and ideas of Milton Friedman. A genuinely rewarding read."
--George P. Shultz, Thomas W. and Susan B. Ford Distinguished Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
 
"A powerful book about the most influential economist since Adam Smith."
--Martin Anderson, former domestic and economic policy advisor to President Reagan

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3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ian Mackechnie on March 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I approached this book with both a sense of excitement and apprehension; excitement because of the subject,and apprehension having been disappointed by Ebenstein's previous works on Hayek.

However, given the constraints of dealing at great length about every aspect of the life and works of Friedman in such a short work, this volume is very readable and provides an acceptable summary of the great man until someone provides a thoroughly researched and comprehensive work on Friedman, similar to Skidelsky on Keynes.

I finished the book in almost one sitting so it was gripping ...
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Eduardo Veiga on October 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A great read into the life of this fascinating man who was one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. Friedman's influence inside and out of economics is mind boggling: school vouchers, voluntary army, floating currencies, monetarist view of inflation, the death of Keynesianism. The book is also an excellent read for those interested in the history of economic thought and especially of the 'Chicago School'. Last but not least, the biographer himself gets the economics right.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lemas Mitchell on March 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
This was not only a biography of Milton Friedman, but also a synopsis of many of his ideas. Reading books like this is always difficult because you can never keep track of all the names and places that are documented, but only come away with a general sense of what the subject did in his life. This book was no different to many others biographies that I have read.

Good points:

1. This book had a very nice synopsis of what happened during the Great Depression. MF's "A Monetary History of the United States" is, of course, the definitive work on that event, but in the event that one wants the Reader's Digest version, this book does that very well.

2. A decent synopsis of some of the fundamental differences between Keynesian economists and Monetarists was also included. It could have been a bit better, but it is good enough to be able to talk intelligently. At least we understood clearly the difference between Keynesians (Paul Krugman) and "supply siders" (Friedman, other conservative economists).

3. The author gives ample space to state the case for empirical verification of different Economic ideas, and demonstrated that there was a point before which people exhaustively tested their theories (rather than just putting together enough cute-sounding words and calling it "finished" from that point). It does seem that the author went overboard on stating this, but perhaps that was intentional.

4. Ebenstein clarifies the "Chile Scandal" surrounding Friedman. Many authors have talked up Friedman's influence on the events in Chile and have created a role for him that did not exist in those events. It turns out that Friedman did not engineer any government takeovers or act in any capacity as adviser other than in a very limited capacity.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By V.H. Amavilah on June 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I recommend "Milton Friedman: A Biography" to all readers, especially to young people who are looking for role models in economics and life in general. Many an economist found something, agreeable to them or not, that improved their academic lives at least just because they knew it, even if they did not know it well. Before Friedman free lunches were possible after all because economics was operating inside its production possibilities frontier (PPF). By pushing economics onto its PPF Friedman made free lunches disappear; the good thing is that the public good in the form of knowledge that Friedman's research program produced is so huge that economics shall have plenty of leftovers to chew on for some time to come. The prospective economist is better off even if all he/she reads of Friedman is "The Monetary History of the United States" (with Anna Jacobson Schwartz) and "The Methodology of Positive Economics". As Friedman points out in The Methodology of Economics "the process [of constructing hypotheses] must be discussed in psychological, not logical, categories; studied in autobiographies, not treatises on scientific method; and promoted by maxim and example, not syllogism or theorem" (p. 43). Thus, between the two books one learns how to identify problems and how to go about solving them. This biography is a valuable addition.

The evidence of Friedman's contributions to the general public is not hard to find and document. For example, sensible deregulation led to cheaper airplane tickets, which induced more flights to more places. The efficacy of volunteer armed forces as a component of an effective national defense is now too commonsensical to restate here. Perhaps Arthur Schopenhauer was correct after all that "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JJ vd Weele on April 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
For several reasons this is not a very good book, the most important one being that the author cannot hide his admiration of Friedman. From the first to the last page, Milton Friedman is heralded as a great thinker, brilliant academic and heroic champion of the free market movement. Although he may well have been all that, the constant glorification quickly become tedious, and more importantly, reduces the credibility of the author.

Let me give a specific example. Milton Friedman has been much criticized for his decision to advice Chilean dictator Pinochet on economic matters. Although this issue is discussed in the book (albeit rather briefly), Ebenstein only makes mention of the existence of criticism, not of it's actual substance. Only Friedman's arguments on the issue (which in fact are less than persuasive) are discussed in some depth, with the predictable consequence that the reader wonders what is actually going on here.

The book is written in very pedestrian prose, with many repetitions, stunted sentences, and even frequent typos (the editors deserve some blame here too). Things become especially awkward when the author combines glorification and repetition, for example when he repeats 12 times in 5 pages the claim that Friedman established the "Chicago school of economics" largely by himself.

Despite the embarrassing reading, the book is still pretty informative. There is enough detail on Friedman's life and work to make it interesting. Friedman's economic insights are described somewhat superficially, but at least the author did not fall prey to the biographer's vice to write 600+ pages. These redeeming features means the book is still a worthwhile read for those who want to have a quick overview of what Friedman was about. For deep and balanced insights into the man's psychology or the controversies he sparked, one will have to look elsewhere.
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