to Milton and Rose Friedman
by Leo Melamed
Institute Milton Friedman Prize Dinner
May 13, 2010
June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg
Gate and uttered the words heard around the world, "Mr.
Gorbachev," he said, "tear down this wall." Two
years later, on November 9, 1989, hundreds of thousands of
East Germans began pouring with impunity through the Berlin
Wall. The unbelievable had occurred without a shot being fired.
The Berlin wall had fallen. The unification of Germany was
months later, a continent away, on February 18, 1990, something
transpired that South African blacks had spent 27 years praying
for and South African whites dreaded. On that day, Nelson Mandela
emerged from the prison gates at the Victor Verster Prison,
raised both fists in the air, and walked out a free man. The
abolishment of Apartheid was imminent.
almost the same moment but again a continent away, something
equally shocking was unfolding. It was May 1, 1990 and the
traditional May Day celebration was in progress in Moscow's
Red Square. There were the usual pomp and circumstance - banners
and marches and songs. The colors on the banner were correct
--- yellow letters on a deep red background --- but something
was dramatically different. The message on the banner was astounding: "Communists," it
read, "have no illusions --- you are bankrupt," The
disintegration of the communist empire had begun.
of us, citizens of planet Earth, fortunate enough to be present
at the latter end of the twentieth century, were privileged
to have witnessed some of these monumental events --- events
that altered the direction of mankind. In what seemed like
a made for TV video, we were ring-side spectators at a near-global
insurrection that unshackled the chains of political and economic
systems that had enslaved a full third of the world population.
In less than an eye-blink, an ideology whose doctrines caused
freedoms of three generations to be confiscated, economies
of scores of nations to be disabled, and the destiny of the
entire planet misdirected for seven decades dissolved before
was only twenty years ago.
these revolutions did not occur by virtue of a random spark.
Surely, the underground fire that ultimately torched the forces
of tyranny took years to ignite. Indeed, the roots of the revolutions
can be found in the merciless suppression of liberty, in the
denial of fundamental human rights born to everyone, and in
the quintessential truth that a market driven economic order
will ultimately crush one that is based on command economics.
just as clearly, the revolutions of the 1990s contained one
defining common denominator - the doctrine of individual freedom
- espoused by one man above all others! That man was Milton
back, the fact that one individual could be so instrumental
in influencing the entire world is difficult to explain. Yet,
it is so. Milton Friedman changed the course of civilization
--- a truth nearly universally embraced. It is a truth underscored
in the introductory video you are about to see. Or to put it
as Gary Becker explained: Milton Friedman's market-driven ideals
lifted a billion people out of poverty since 1990.
perhaps the best assessment of Milton Friedman's influence
in the world comes from Vaclav Klaus:
and studying Milton Friedman's works helped me and many of
us to understand economic reality, to understand economics,
to understand its methodology, the role of the market in society,
the role of the state in a free market economy, the role of
money in the economy. Surely there were other influential authors
but there was no one comparable in intellectual and human integrity,
in the firmness of stances and attitudes, in innovative boldness,
in simplicity and clarity of exposition and in the scope and
quality of important contributions both to economic theory
and the theory of public policy.
the legendary PBS series Free to Choose? Who but Milton
and Rose Friedman could speak to nearly the entire globe about
the value of freedom in a language and with a logic everyone
could understand? Who but the Friedmans could explain that "the
most important single central fact about a free market is that
no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit?" Or
in the words of Thomas G. Donlan, Barron's Editorial Page Editor:
That "the best thing about economics is the free market,
and the best thing about the free market is freedom."
of special significance to Americans, Milton and Rose Friedman
taught us that more than any other nation on this planet, we
Americans are free to think, to experiment, to innovate. And
that this was no accident. As they explained, the story of
the United States is a story of two interdependent miracles:
an economic miracle and a political miracle. One, embodied
in Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, which established that
an economic system could succeed only in an environment which
allowed the freedom of individuals to pursue their own objectives.
The second, drafted by Thomas Jefferson for The Declaration
of Independence which proclaimed the entitlement of some self-evident
truths such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
the revolutions of the 1990s were a magnificent triumph of
democracy and freedom. A majestic tribute to Thomas Jefferson,
Abraham Lincoln, Adam Smith and, oh yes, Milton Friedman.
this Cato Prize is not named for Milton Friedman because he
was the most influential economist of the twentieth century;
is this Cato Prize named for Milton Friedman because more than
anyone in the twentieth century he stood for free markets;
Cato Prize is named for Milton Friedman because he devoted
his life toward the advancement of human liberty.
me to conclude with Milton Friedman's sacred admonition:
challenge for my generation," said the great man, "was
to provide an intellectual defense of liberty....The challenge
for your generation is to keep it."
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