Sweden owes a debt to Friedman

Milton Friedman, who has died aged 94, became a household name by shaping world views of economics and social matters. He also had a surprisingly great impact in Sweden.

Friedman was a recognized scholar in the fields of economics and made important contributions to monetary economics, stressing the importance of the quantity of money as a determinant of inflation and business cycles. These ideas are today an integral part of government policies in countries across the world, and played in important role in winning Friedman the Nobel Prize for Economic Science in 1976.

What separated Milton Friedman from other successful scholars was that he did not only have a sharp mind for matters of science, but also possessed a passion for social issues. He was a strong believer in personal freedom and played an important role as a champion of free markets in a time where most intellectuals favored socialism and other forms of state control of the economy.

Many of Friedman’s ideas have today come to influence the lives of millions of peoples around the world. Not least during his last years in life he concentrated on promoting the idea of school vouchers; a system which allows parents to choose the public or private school that they see as best for their children. School vouchers have been introduced in many countries, to the benefit of students, parents and teachers.

Sweden is surprisingly one of the countries where Friedmans ideas have had the strongest impacts on daily life politics. His concepts of monetary economics have been accepted by all parties except for the far-left Greens and former communists. Sweden has also successfully embraced the ideas of school vouchers to a greater extent than many other industrialized nations.

There is still much that Sweden can learn from Friedman – such as a greater respect for individual choice, a deeper appreciation of the positive role that free enterprise plays in society and a better understanding of the negative effects of over-taxation on individual responsibility and economic development. There is still time to learn. Although Milton Friedman is no longer with us, his ideas live on.

Nima Sanandaji