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Milton Friedman and Economic Debate in the United States, 1932–1972, Volume 1

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.

Author Information

Edward Nelson is an economist in the division of monetary affairs at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.


“Edward Nelson presents a new intellectual history of Friedman’s massive oeuvre, tracing Friedman’s work in detail and relating it to the issues and literature of the time. The work is highly original, and the scholarship superlative. This will be the definitive book on Milton Friedman for a long time to come.”
— Michael Bordo, Rutgers University

“A fascinating book... Nelson presents a meticulously researched, exquisitely detailed exposition of Friedman’s work, ranging from his contributions to economic research to his efforts to improve public policy.Thisbookis a definitive resource for appreciating MiltonFriedman’s influence in economics and public policy.”
— Athanasios Orphanides, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“Nelson’s entertaining and thought-provoking book is a treasure trove of information about Milton Friedman and the economic debates he engaged in. It is an essential reference for those interested in Friedman, his ideas, and his times. Even readers familiar with Friedman’s work will be sure to find new facts in Nelson’s book, such as the fascinating account of the ups and downs of Friedman’s career, which led Friedman to win the Clark Medal and the Nobel Prize for completely separate bodies of work.”
— Emi Nakamura, University of California, Berkeley

Audience: Professional and scholarly;