When economists are called “influential,” it usually means they’ve changed the way other economists think. By that standard, Milton Friedman was one of the most influential economists of all time. He revolutionized the way economists think about consumption, about money, about stabilization policy, and about unemployment. He demonstrated the power of committing oneself to a few simple assumptions about human behaviour and then relentlessly pursuing their logical implications. He developed and taught new ways of interpreting data, testing his theories by their ability to explain multiple disparate phenomena. His successes were spectacular and his techniques were widely emulated.
It would take several large volumes to do justice to Friedman’s extraordinary contributions to economic theory, economic practice, economic policy, and economic literacy. The few brief chapters that follow will give an overview of what those volumes might contain.