Friedman Legacy Day

by Jane S. Shaw
What did Milton Friedman think about higher education?

Around the world today, classical liberals have been celebrating the 103rd birthday of the late economist Milton Friedman.  Each year on July 31, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, an organization created as a legacy of Milton and Rose Friedman, helps sponsor lunches, presentations, meetings, and other activities in honor of Friedman’s achievements and his promotion of school choice.

Talks at these events tend to emphasize K-12 education, but here’s a 2013 article from the Freeman based on George Leef’s presentation for the Pope Center.

One of its gems is an email sent by Milton Friedman to economist Richard Vedder. From George’s article:

In an email exchange with Professor Richard Vedder (Professor of Economics at Ohio University and Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity), he [Friedman] wrote,

I have not changed my view that higher education has some positive externalities, but I have become much more aware that it also has negative externalities. I am much more dubious than I was when I wrote Capitalism and Freedom that there is any justification at all for government subsidy of higher education. The spread of political correctness right now would seem to be a very strong negative externality. A full analysis along these lines might lead you to conclude that higher education should be taxed to offset its negative externalities. (Sept. 12, 2003)

A tax on higher education! Something worth pondering. And this year’s Pope Center talk was given by Isaac Morehouse, founder of Praxis, an alternative to traditional higher education.