Rose Friedman, 1910-2009
Last week, Rose Friedman, wife of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman and a respected economist in her own right, died at the age of 98. She was preceded in death by her husband of 68 years, who passed in 2006. Rose collaborated with her husband—a leader of the Chicago School of economics—on a number of books, including the classic Capitalism and Freedom, in which Friedman provides the definitive statement of his immensely influential economic philosophy—one in which competitive capitalism serves as both a device for achieving economic freedom and a necessary condition for political freedom.
In 1998, the Press published Two Lucky People: Memoirs, a memorable and lively account of Rose and Milton’s lives together, the people they knew, and the work they shared. In its pages, they set the record straight regarding their involvement with world leaders and many of the twentieth century’s most important public policy issues. Included in Two Lucky People are previously unpublished documents of significant interest, such as a letter Milton Friedman wrote to General Pinochet in 1975 on his return from Chile along with Pinochet’s reply; a memo from Friedman prepared in 1988 for Zhao Zi Yang, the general secretary for the Communist party in China, on economic reform in China; and the transcript of Friedman’s subsequent lengthy meeting with Zhao. Together the Friedmans experienced many of the major events that have shaped the history of the modern world—from the Great Depression to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The impact that they have had on world affairs moves their memoirs beyond the merely personal and makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in the history of twentieth-century ideas.
Upon publication, the National Review quipped, “This engaging book recounts the life and contributions of one of America’s most influential writers and economists in the second half of the twentieth century. And her husband’s no slouch either.” Rose was a formidable opponent in policy disagreements, as well; Milton joked when receiving his Medal of Freedom award from George W. Bush in 2002 that she was the only person to ever have won an argument against him.
Rose Friedman exemplified the notion that behind every great man is a great woman. May her legacy live on—and flourish—along with her husband’s.