Important People in “Capitalism and Freedom” by Milton Friedman

by Danny Fenster

This chapter is a free excerpt from Quicklet on Capitalism and Freedom.

Friedrich Hayek is an Austro-Hungarian philosopher and economist. Hayek was an accomplished contemporary of Friedman’s, both teaching and researching at the University of Chicago. Hayek, also a Nobel prize winner in economics, was a major influence on Friedman, and Friedman thanks him as such in the preface and acknowledgements of this book. Hayek was the author of The Road to Serfdom, a popular book on political economy, which shared themes with Capitalism and Freedom.

Ludwig Von Mises was an Austrian-American philosopher and economist, a mentor to Hayek and, indirectly, to Friedman. Ludwig did much to advance the “classical liberal” branch of libertarianism espoused by Friedman and Hayek, and was a foundational figure in the so-called “Austrian School” of Economics, which found a home at the University of Chicago. Friedman is often thought of as the intellectual head of the so-called “Chicago School” of economics, the second generation of the Austrian school.

Adam Smith is the eighteenth-century philosopher and father of political economy thought. He is the author of The Wealth of Nations, from which came the basis for modern economic thought, especially laissez-faire, the free market economics advocated for by Friedman. In Capitalism and Freedom, Milton refers to and quotes Smith often and at length.


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Friedrich Hayek is an Austro-Hungarian philosopher and economist. Hayek was an accomplished contemporary of Friedman’s, both teaching and researching at the University of Chicago. Hayek, also a Nobel prize winner in economics, was a major influence on Friedman, and Friedman thanks him as such in the preface and acknowledgements of this book. Hayek was the author of The Road to Serfdom, a popular book on political economy, which shared themes with Capitalism and Freedom.

Ludwig Von Mises was an Austrian-American philosopher and economist, a mentor to Hayek and, indirectly, to Friedman. Ludwig did much to advance the “classical liberal” branch of libertarianism espoused by Friedman and Hayek, and was a foundational figure in the so-called “Austrian School” of Economics, which found a home at the University of Chicago. Friedman is often thought of as the intellectual head of the so-called “Chicago School” of economics, the second generation of the Austrian school.

Adam Smith is the eighteenth-century philosopher and father of political economy thought. He is the author of The Wealth of Nations, from which came the basis for modern economic thought, especially laissez-faire, the free market economics advocated for by Friedman. In Capitalism and Freedom, Milton refers to and quotes Smith often and at length.

George Stigler is another Nobel prize-winning economist from the University of Chicago, and was a professor of Friedman’s and a great influence on him. Stigler contributed several new thoughts to the field of economics, but is probably best know for the Economic Theory of Regulation, also known as “capture,” which explains that political factions and interest groups will take advantage of the coercive powers of government to shape laws and regulations to their benefit. This is a strong undercurrent to Friedman’s central arguments in the book.

John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher and economist of the nineteenth century. Mill played a major role in forming the concept of liberty that justifies individual freedom as in opposition to state control, the guiding ethical value for Friedman. Mill is also known for advancing the ethical framework known as utilitarianism and played a major role in defining the scientific method, both of which are echoed in the Friedman’s thoughts. Mill is referred to sparingly throughout the text, but was no doubt influential.

Karl Marx is the famous nineteenth-century German philosopher and advocate of communism and the socialist movement, the central competing ideology which Friedman spent his life arguing against. Marx was in many ways a founder of the social sciences and the study of political economy. With Friedrich Engels, he authored the classic Communist Manifesto. In the text, Friedman critiques the central ideology of Marxism.

John Maynard Keynes is the British economist who developed the eponymous theory of fiscal and monetary policy. Keynes did much work on defining the specifics of business cycles, and his theory advocated fairly extensive use by governments and central banks of monetary and fiscal policy to mitigate the effects of down cycles and to control employment and unemployment. While this method was highly respected and in wide use at the time of this book’s publishing, Friedman spends two chapters refuting these ideas. It is interesting to note however, that early in his career, even Friedman was a devoted Keynesian.  

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