President Pays Tribute to Milton Friedman

Published July 1, 2002

When Nobel laureate Milton Friedman was in Washington in May to attend the Cato Institute’s 25th anniversary gala, including the inaugural award of the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, he had lunch at the White House with President George W. Bush, who delivered the following tribute to Friedman before their private meeting.

“… It’s an honor for me to be here to pay tribute to a hero of freedom, Milton Friedman. He has used a brilliant mind to advance a moral vision: the vision of a society where men and women are free, free to choose, but where government is not as free to override their decisions. That vision has changed America and it is changing the world. …

“Milton Friedman has shown us that when government attempts to substitute its own judgments for the judgments of free people, the results are usually disastrous. In contrast to the free market’s invisible hand, which improves the lives of people, the government’s invisible foot tramples on people’s hopes and destroys their dreams.

“He has never claimed that free markets are perfect. Yet he has demonstrated that even an imperfect market produces better results than arrogant experts and grasping bureaucrats. But Milton Friedman does not object to government controls solely because they are ineffective. His deeper objections flow from a moral framework. He has taught us that a free market system’s main justification is its moral strength. Human freedom serves the cause of human dignity. Freedom rewards creativity and work, and you cannot reduce freedom in our economy without reducing freedom in our lives. …

“Milton Friedman has … shown us how freedom can foster educational reform. For many years, he has been a tireless advocate of school choice as a way of empowering parents and improving the performance of our schools. Educational reform advances when parents have the information and the authority to push for reform. And there is no greater authority than a good alternative. Poor children in America need better options when they’re trapped in schools that will not teach and will not change.

“… There’s no doubt that Milton and Rose Friedman have been lucky. But not as lucky as America. We’re lucky that their parents chose to immigrate from Europe. We’re lucky they gave them the love and encouragement they needed to be bold and to succeed.”