Economist Milton Friedman passed away on November 16, 2006. He was 94 years old.
Most know Friedman as a University of Chicago professor, Nobel laureate, and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He is considered the intellectual godfather of school choice.
But founders of The New Coalition for Economic and Social Change remember Friedman from the Fairmont Conference in San Francisco in 1980. (see video clip at right)
One of the conveners of that conference was Thomas Sowell, one of Dr. Friedman’s favorite students. Sowell received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago. The Fairmont gathering was the first such conference of blacks and whites since Booker T. Washington’s death in 1915. Dr. Friedman told the group that gathered there that blacks “have had bad schooling because it is provided by the government, and because the poor people of this country have no other alternative.”
Friedman further told the group that other “Ethnic groups succeeded by taking advantage of the opportunities that the private market offered to them.” Himself a Jew, he told the group, “the Jews certainly did not succeed because they were getting special government privileges. The Japanese did not succeed on that ground. The Chinese did not succeed on that ground. They all succeeded by taking advantage of the opportunities that the private market offered to them. And I think this is a subject that is gaining widespread interest.”
That was more than 25 years ago, and we have come a long way since that time. But we have a long way to go. Thank you, Dr. Friedman, for showing us the way.
Lee H. Walker ([email protected]) is president of The New Coalition for Economic and Social Change.