Milton Friedman, Free Markets Theorist, Dies at 94.
Milton Friedman, the grandmaster of free-market economic theory in the postwar era and a prime force in the movement of nations toward less government and greater reliance on individual responsibility, died today in San Francisco, where he lived. He was 94.
Conservative and liberal colleagues alike viewed Mr. Friedman, a Nobel prize laureate, as one of the 20th century’s leading economic scholars, on a par with giants like John Maynard Keynes and Paul Samuelson.
Flying the flag of economic conservatism, Mr. Friedman led the postwar challenge to the hallowed theories of Lord Keynes, the British economist who maintained that governments had a duty to help capitalistic economies through periods of recession and to prevent boom times from exploding into high inflation.
In Professor Friedman’s view, government had the opposite obligation: to keep its hands off the economy, to let the free market do its work.
The only economic lever that Mr. Friedman would allow government to use was the one that controlled the supply of money — a monetarist view that had gone out of favor when he embraced it in the 1950s. He went on to record a signal achievement, predicting the unprecedented combination of rising unemployment and rising inflation that came to be called stagflation. His work earned him the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science in 1976.
Rarely, his colleagues said, did anyone have such impact on both his own profession and on government. Though he never served officially in the halls of power, he was always around them, as an adviser and theorist.
“Among economic scholars, Milton Friedman had no peer,” Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, said today. “The direct and indirect influences of his thinking on contemporary monetary economics would be difficult to overstate.”
Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, said of Mr. Friedman in an interview on Tuesday. “From a longer-term point of view, it’s his academic achievements which will have lasting import. But I would not dismiss the profound impact he has already had on the American public’s view.”
Mr. Friedman had a gift for communicating complicated ideas in simple and lucid ways, and it served him well as the author or co-author of more than a dozen books, as a columnist for Newsweek from 1966 to 1983 and even as the star of a public television series.
Panama goes to polls on upgrade for canal
PANAMA CITY: Voters were expected Sunday to approve the largest modernization project in the 92-year history of the Panama Canal, a $5.25 billion plan to expand the waterway to allow for larger ships while alleviating traffic problems.
The government of President Martín Torrijos has billed the referendum as historic, saying the work would double the capacity of a canal already on pace to generate about $1.4 billion in revenue this year. Critics claim the expansion would benefit the canal's customers more than Panamanians, and worry that costs could balloon, forcing this debt- ridden country to borrow even more.
The project would build a third set of locks on the Pacific and Atlantic ends of the canal by 2015, allowing it to handle modern container ships, cruise liners and tankers too large for its locks, which are 33 meters, or 108 feet, wide.
The Panama Canal Authority, the autonomous government agency that runs the canal, says the project would be paid for by increasing tolls and would generate $6 billion in revenue by 2025.
There is nothing Panamanians are more passionate about than the canal.
"It's incomparable in the hemisphere," said Samuel Lewis Navarro, the country's vice president and foreign secretary. "It's in our heart, part of our soul."
Public opinion polls indicate that the plan would be approved overwhelmingly. Green and white signs throughout the country read "Yes for our children," while tens of thousands of billboards and bumper stickers trumpet new jobs.
"The canal needs you," television and radio ads implore.
"It will mean more boats, and that means more jobs," said Damasco Polanco, who was herding cows on horseback in Nuevo Provedencia, on the banks of Lake Gatún, an artificial reservoir that supplies water to the canal.
The canal employs 8,000 workers and the expansion is expected to generate as many as 40,000 new jobs. Unemployment in Panama is 9.5 percent, and 40 percent of the country lives in poverty.
But critics fear that the expansion could cost nearly double the government's estimate, as well as stoke corruption and uncontrolled debt.
"The poor continue to suffer while the rich get richer," said José Felix Castillo, 62, a high school teacher who was one of about 3,000 supporters who took to Panama City's streets to protest the measure on Friday.
Lewis Navarro noted that a portion of the revenue generated by each ton of cargo that passes through the waterway goes to education and social programs.
"We aren't talking about 40 percent poverty as a consequence of the canal," he said. "It's exactly the opposite."