November 16, 2006

Milton Friedman, 94

Noted economist Milton Friedman has died at age 94. (See a brief chronology at, what else, the Wall Street Journal.) It's important to note the twists and turns that his proposal for vouchers has taken, from his main argument to replace all public schooling with vouchers to the Alum Rock non-experiment in the 1970s to Milwaukee and Cleveland, then Florida in various guises, etc. His arguments about efficiency are far down in the public debate, but vouchers advocates will be singing his praises, and probably for good reason in terms of intellectual genealogy. I think he was largely wrong in his arguments about the direction of public policy, but you cannot deny his importance as an icon for modern conservatives.

I suspect there will be some provocative but not very historically-minded biographies of him in the next few years. There should be an intellectual history of vouchers as well (No, Andrew Coulson's Market Education doesn't count), but I'm not sure who'd do it. Nancy Beadie and Kim Tolley have done good work on the fuzzy line between public and private in the 19th century, and Jurgen Herbst's School Choice and School Governance (2006) is a comparative study (U.S. and Germany) that I've been looking forward to (and haven't yet read—don't nag me! I have too many urgent things at the moment). Anyone want to volunteer?

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Posted in Education policy on November 16, 2006 5:15 PM |