Capitalism and Freedom is published in 1962 by the University of Chicago Press which discusses the role of economic capitalism in liberal society. It has sold over 400,000 copies in 18 years and more than half a million since 1962. It has been translated into 18 languages. In accessible, jargon-free language, Friedman makes the case for economic freedom as a precondition for political freedom. He defines liberal in European Enlightenment terms, contrasting with an American usage that he believes has been corrupted since the Great Depression. Many North Americans usually categorized as conservative or libertarian have adopted some of his views. The book finds several realistic places in which a free market can be promoted for both philosophical and practical reasons, with several surprising conclusions. Among other concepts, Friedman advocates ending the mandatory licensing of doctors and introducing a system of vouchers for school education.
Capitalism and Freedom is written from the perspective of the United States. It was published nearly two decades after World War II, a time when the Great Depression was still in collective memory and the Cold War had just begun. Under the Kennedy and preceding Eisenhower administrations, federal expenditures were growing at a quick pace in the areas of national defense, social welfare and infrastructure. Both major parties, Democratic and Republican, supported increased spending in different ways. This, as well as the New Deal, was supported by most intellectuals with the justification of Keynesian economics.
The effects of Capitalism and Freedom were great yet varied in the realm of political economics. Some of Friedman's suggestions are being tested and implemented in many places, such as the flat income tax in Slovakia, a floating exchange rate which has almost fully replaced the Bretton Woods system, and national school voucher systems in Chile (since 1981) and Sweden (since 1992), to cite a few prominent examples. However, many other ideas have scarcely been considered, such as the end of licensing, and the abolition of corporate income tax (in favor of an income tax on the stock holder). Though politicians often claim that they are working towards ""free trade,"" an idea the book supports, no one has considered taking his suggestion of phasing out all tariffs in 10 years. Nevertheless, Friedman popularized many ideas previously unknown to most outside economics. This and other works helped Milton Friedman to become a household name.
Capitalism and Freedom made the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's 50 Best Books of the Twentieth Century and also was placed tenth on the list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the twentieth century compiled by National Review.
Milton Friedman (1912-2006) was an American economist, statistician, a professor at the University of Chicago, and the recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1976). Among scholars, he is best known for his theoretical and empirical research, especially consumption analysis, monetary history and theory, and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy. He was an economic advisor to U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Over time, many governments practiced his restatement of a political philosophy that extolled the virtues of a free market economic system with little intervention by government. As a leader of the Chicago school of economics, based at the University of Chicago, he had great influence in determining the research agenda of the entire profession. Milton Friedman's works, which include many monographs, books, scholarly articles, papers, magazine columns, television programs, videos, and lectures, cover a broad range of topics of microeconomics, macroeconomics, economic history, and public policy issues.
The Economist described him as "the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century…possibly of all of it".
Friedman was originally a Keynesian supporter of the New Deal and advocate of government intervention in the economy. However, his 1950s reinterpretation of the Keynesian consumption function challenged the basic Keynesian model. At the University of Chicago, Friedman became the main advocate for opposing Keynesianism. During the 1960s he promoted an alternative macroeconomic policy known as "monetarism". He theorized there existed a "natural rate of unemployment" and he argued the central government could not micromanage the economy because people would realize what the government was doing and change their behavior to neutralize such policies. He rejected the Phillips Curve and predicted that Keynesian policies then existing would cause "stagflation". Friedman's claim that monetary policy could have prevented the Great Depression was an attempt to refute the analysis of Keynes, who argued that monetary policy is ineffective during depression conditions, and that large-scale deficit spending by the government is needed to decrease mass unemployment. Though opposed to the existence of the Federal Reserve, Friedman argued that, given that it does exist, a steady, small expansion of the money supply was the only wise policy, and he warned against efforts by a treasury or central bank to do otherwise.
Influenced by his close friend George Stigler, Friedman opposed government regulation of many types. He once stated that his role in eliminating U.S. conscription was his proudest accomplishment, and his support for school choice led him to found The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Friedman's political philosophy, which he considered classically liberal and libertarian, emphasized the advantages of free market economics and the disadvantages of government intervention and regulation, strongly influencing the opinions of American conservatives and libertarians.
In his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman advocated policies such as a volunteer military, freely floating exchange rates, abolition of medical licenses, a negative income tax, and education vouchers. His books and essays were well read and were even circulated illegally in Communist countries.
Most economists during the 1960s rejected Friedman's methodology, but since then they have had an increasing international influence (especially in the USA and Britain). Some of his laissez-faire ideas concerning monetary policy, taxation, privatization and deregulation were used by governments, especially during the 1980s. His monetary theory has had a large influence on economists such as Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve's response to the financial crisis of 2007–2010.