Ellen Weaver

Why does Milton Friedman matter?

Quality of Life
July 31, 2013

Ellen Weaver

Widely regarded as the groundbreaking leader of the Chicago School of monetary economics, Milton Friedman led a long and storied career, receiving the 1976 Nobel Prize for Economic Science, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988 and the National Medal of Science the same year.

But he is beloved because his academic brilliance was employed in the practical service of people. Friedman’s observance of the facts led him to a passionate belief that people truly free to choose their course in life without the heavy hand of undue government interference is the surest way forward to create hope and opportunity – a rising tide of prosperity – for all.

This is especially true in the timeless work of education freedom to which he and his wife Rose devoted themselves. As he once famously said:

Governments never learn. Those words ring clear to the citizens of this country who know that Washington is fundamentally broken. Those words ring clear to the people of South Carolina where we know that while the sunbeams of economic opportunity don’t shine as brightly in every county of the Palmetto State.

Only people learn. South Carolina has the opportunity to enrich the lives of so many children and families by innovating policy to focus on students, empower parents and strengthen our education system.

Too many of our low income and minority children are falling behind in school and at incredibly high risk to drop out of school and be caught in a cycle of poverty. A good education is the first step on the path to solving these problems. But too many of these children are trapped in struggling schools that don’t fit their needs. For these children and their frustrated parents, there are no other educational options.

Time and again, we have seen that more money and Washington mandates are not the answer. Rather, South Carolina must embrace the kind of education innovations that are passing in states all over the country, including ideas like Opportunity Scholarships that just passed in North Carolina last week.

This year, through heroic efforts in the South Carolina Senate, we took a small but important first step towards opening up this kind of opportunity for our children with disabilities. But the work is never done. 2014 will be our golden opportunity to cement and build on that important gain.

And if we do, we stand on the shoulders of giants like Milton Friedman whose policy innovation, founded on a compassion for people, have left a powerful example for us to follow.