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Milton Friedman and Economic Debate in the United States, 1932–1972, Volume 2

Milton Friedman is widely recognized as one of the most influential economists of the twentieth century. Yet no previous study has distilled Friedman’s vast body of writings into an authoritative account of his research, his policy views, and his interventions in public debate. With this ambitious new work, Edward Nelson closes the gap: Milton Friedman and Economic Debate in the United States is the defining narrative on the famed economist, the first to grapple comprehensively with Friedman’s research output, economic framework, and legacy.

This two-volume account provides a foundational introduction to Friedman’s role in several major economic debates that took place in the United States between 1932 and 1972. The first volume, which takes the story through 1960, covers the period in which Friedman began and developed his research on monetary policy. It traces Friedman’s thinking from his professional beginnings in the 1930s as a combative young microeconomist, to his wartime years on the staff of the US Treasury, and his emergence in the postwar period as a leading proponent of monetary policy. The second volume covers the years between 1960 and 1972— years that saw the publication of Friedman and Anna Schwartz’s Monetary History of the United States. The book also covers Friedman’s involvement in a number of debates in the 1960s and 1970s, on topics such as unemployment, inflation, consumer protection, and the environment.

As a fellow monetary economist, Nelson writes from a unique vantage point, drawing on both his own expertise in monetary analysis and his deep familiarity with Friedman’s writings. Using extensive documentation, the book weaves together Friedman’s research contributions and his engagement in public debate, providing an unparalleled analysis of Friedman’s views on the economic developments of his day.

640 pages | 8 line drawings, 1 table | 6 x 9 | © 2020

Biography and Letters

Economics and Business: Economics--History, Economics--Money and Banking


“Magisterial. . . For anyone wanting to understand the ideas that Friedman generated over his research career, this book is, and will remain for some time, the essential guide.”

Financial World

"Edward Nelson knows more about Milton Friedman’s economics than anyone else alive. In two weighty volumes, he begins to share that knowledge with us. . . .Readers of the two chronological parts—even those who have already studied carefully Friedman’s major works—will learn much more from Nelson about the incredible breadth and diversity of Friedman’s academic research."

Peter N. Ireland | Business Economics

"Volume 2 of a two-volume set presents a composite picture of Milton Friedman’s theoretical positions and policy conclusions, how they informed his interactions with economists and policy makers, and how they shaped his commentary on economic policy in the United States, focusing on the years 1961 to 1972."

Journal of Economic Literature

“This monumental masterpiece will be the definitive work on Milton Friedman’s contributions to monetary economics and his role in the major economic debates in the United States. Nelson, an eminent specialist in monetary economics, casts a wide net over Friedman’s publications, interviews, and other public statements and provides a fascinating, illuminating, and complete analysis of the evolution of Friedman’s economic views into a coherent and consistent framework. An indispensable read and reference for a thorough and deep understanding of Friedman’s work and his impact on the major economic debates of the time.”

Lars E. O. Svensson, Stockholm School of Economics

“Nelson has produced a masterful and unique narrative of Milton Friedman’s extensive participation in American debates on economic policy and theory up to 1972, with attention to its interplay with Friedman’s biographical trajectory and episodes in American economic history. These two volumes, partly based on archival material and several interviews, shed new light on one of the most influential economists of the twentieth century and his intellectual interactions with his peers.”

Mauro Boianovsky, Universidade de Brasilia

“Milton Friedman is among the twentieth century’s most influential economists, both within his discipline and in the public policy sphere. We need a serious intellectual biography of Friedman, a thorough, well-informed, and lengthy study. Nelson’s work is first-rate history. His approach has forced him to master and weigh a prodigious body of writings, ensuring that his interpretation of Friedman’s ideas will become an important starting point for anyone else working on the evolution of economic ideas and policy in the second half of the last century.”

David Laidler, University of Western Ontario

"When I read the two volume Milton Friedman & Economic Debate in the United States: 1932-1972 by Edward Nelson... I knew it would be the best book of 2021 and six months later I stand by that judgement. These books are for those with a decent under judgement."

The Interim

Table of Contents

Introduction to Volume 2
Conventions Used in This Book

Chapter 11: Moving into High Gear, 1961 to 1963 
I.          Events and Activities, 1961–63
II.        Issues, 1961–63
Capitalism and Freedom Arrives
Rolling Out the Monetary History
The Commission on Money and Credit                                                                   
Operation Twist            
III.       Personalities, 1961–63
Abba Lerner
John F. Kennedy

Chapter 12: Critic of the New Economics, 1964 to 1966
I.          Events and Activities, 1964–66
II.        Issues, 1964–66
The Credit Crunch and Minirecession
The Fiscal Critic—the Multiplier
III.       Personalities, 1964–66
Barry Goldwater
James Tobin

Chapter 13: The Friedman Presidency and the Nixon Candidacy, 1967 to 1968
I.          Events and Activities, 1967–68
II.        Issues, 1967–68
The St. Louis Connection
Income Support, Welfare, and Social Security
The Presidential Address
III.       Personalities, 1967–68
Karl Brunner
Richard Nixon

Chapter 14: Debates on Regulation and Aggregate Supply, 1969 to 1972
I.          Events and Activities Related to Regulation and Aggregate Supply, 1969–72
II.        Issues Related to Regulation and Aggregate Supply, 1969–72
The Social Responsibility of Business
Money and Regulation Q
III.       Personalities in Debates on Regulation and Aggregate Supply, 1969–72
Robert Gordon
Ralph Nader

Chapter 15: Monetary Policy Debates and Developments in Stabilization Policy, 1969 to 1972
I.          Events and Activities Related to Monetary Policy Debates and Developments in Stabilization Policy, 1969–72
II.        Issues Related to Monetary Policy Debates and Developments in Stabilization Policy, 1969–72
From Gradualism to the New Economic Policy
The End of Bretton Woods
III.       Personalities in Monetary Policy Debates and Developments in Stabilization Policy, 1969–72
Robert Lucas and Thomas Sargent
Arthur Burns

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