Number Crunching

February 6, 2007

When economist Milton Friedman died in November, I searched in vain for a right-wing writeup on his career that reflected something other than mindless adulation or rote-recitation of Reagan-era bromides about the magic of the marketplace. Adam Smith’s invisible hand lends itself entirely too well to the conservative penchant for magic thinking.

Fortunately, Paul Krugman was able to leap the New York Times firewall for a visit at The New York Review of Books, where his essay on Friedman’s place in the history of the dismal science is a model of accessibility and balance. Not the false balance of “I said something critical of Friedman so now I have to say something critical about Keynes,” but the intellectual honesty that gives Friedman his due and recognizes where his thinking paid dividends, and where his blind faith in untrammeled free markets exacted a heavy price. A fine essay.

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