As it happens, I am in San Francisco today to be MC at tonights annual dinner for the Pacific Research Institute, featuring special guest, Thank You for Smoking author, Christopher Buckley. Ordinarily I would convey our greetings to Milton from the podium, as he was a regular guest at these dinners. Now, instead, a eulogy.
The first time I ever spoke with Friedman was when I was an intern in DC right out of college, and I foolishly decided to get up and challenge him during question time at a large dinner about the gold standard (which he always opposed). I was swiftly, but nicely, dispatched into the shadows, where I learned that it was a stupid idea to argue with a Nobel Prize winner about the subject for which he won the prize. What was I thinking?
Years later after I went to work for PRI in San Francisco I got to see Milton many times, often up close and on intimate terms. Sally Pipes often hosted small dinners with Milton to which she would gracious include me, and I would try to follow Miltons theological distinctions between M1 and M2. I once rode with him back to his apartment in his Lexis (Milton, remember, is a Hobbit: he sat on a telephone book). Behind the wheel, he seemed to forget everything he knew about cost-benefit analysis or risk assessment. It was more like riding with Steve McQueen in "Bullet." He sent me several kind notes about my work from time to time, especially The Age of Reagan, where I had included a number of the snide dismissals of Friedman that appeared in 1964 when he was advising Goldwater.
We all know who got the last laugh. Keynes famously said that in the long run were all dead. Turned out the long run belonged not to Keynes but to Milton. And it still does, even though he is gone. RIP.