The Power of Choice

The Story

The amazing life story of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman can be completely and effectively told only when integrated with stories of the impact of his ideas here in the United States and throughout the world. No one person in the 20th century had such an impact on economic thinking worldwide, as has Milton Friedman. Yet his is a most unlikely story that he credits, in large measure, to "luck."

The Production

Much of the material in this new and exclusive documentary is based on Milton and Rose Friedman's 1998 memoir: Two Lucky People. To make this program, the producers have been given exclusive access to the Friedmans and to their personal archive of historic material. Produced in high-definition and including unique historical material from the past seventy years, the producers have recently recorded numerous wide-screen interviews with Dr. Milton and Rose Friedman as well as other distinguished Americans who are key players in this story. An extensive search through the historical archive has yielded a treasure trove of materials on the Friedmans' public life as well as many of their private moments. A biography of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman cannot be complete, however, without an exploration of his science and of the impact of his ideas on the world stage. To this end, the producers are traveling to Estonia, Chile, England, and throughout the United States to tell this story.

Tease

Rising like a phoenix from a troubled past, entrepreneurs have turned Chile's rich Colchagua Valley into one of the world's great economic miracles. Chilean wines now compete in the world market. Wine and ingenuity have made Don Melchor a very wealthy man. But if you think Chile is an unlikely locale for entrepreneurial success in the 21st century — consider Estonia, until recently part of the Soviet Union.

Economies all over the world are feeling the impact of free markets.

The world of the 21st century is a world of international markets interconnecting people everywhere — people who have never met, yet inadvertently have become integral to each other's well being. The genie is out of the bottle. Every minute of every day products from all over the world are moving in perpetual motion.

For over 30 years the United States military has operated as a 100-percent volunteer force. To be successful it must offer attractive choices. The army alone now offers some 300 distinct career paths to attract young men and women to a professional life in the military.

All of these things reflect the economics of choice, the economics of individual freedom that have changed and are continuing to change the world in which we live. Still, individual freedom of choice can spark heated protest in the United States and around the world.

For nearly a century one controversial American has championed the idea that only through economic freedom and the rule of law will lead inevitably to political freedom. His has been a commitment to truth — not as he has imagined it, but as he has found it in the world around him. The rise of a global economy through free markets has underscored the power of his ideas — the power of choice. No one has been a greater proponent of individual freedom and individual choice than Milton Friedman, teacher, scientist and author, revolutionary intellectual, winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Economics, and citizen of the world. This is his story, including the impact of his ideas upon people the world over. Included in the program are exclusive appearances by Alan Greenspan, Paul Samuelson, Thomas Sowell, Martin Anderson, Gary Becker and Milton and Rose Friedman.

Introduction

On a warm San Francisco afternoon, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman and his wife Rose lunch with friends prior to just one more interview on their remarkable journey through life. In this friendly setting the still-controversial Nobel laureate is relaxed and introspective as his wife watches from behind the scenes. It's been quite a life. Milton and Rose Friedman have been partners for 67 years. As Rose says: two partners, one career. Rose: "Fortunately I was smart enough to get a degree in the same field that Milton did, therefore I could really work with him, and there weren't very many things that he wrote without my sort of saying it's okay or giving him whatever suggestions I could. And he was very generous in this respect. He always wanted me to. Sometimes I helped and sometimes I didn't."

Twenty-nine years after being singled out to receive the coveted Nobel Prize in Economics, Milton Friedman still enjoys the public spotlight. This evening, in a festive ceremony at San Francisco's Ritz-Carlton Hotel, guests gather for the presentation of the 2004 Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. Milton and Rose are honored guests and the center of attention. The Friedman Prize is given in honor of this man who has been called the greatest champion of liberty in the 20th century. This year's winner of the $500,000 prize is internationally recognized economist and property rights activist Hernando de Soto of Peru.

At 93 Milton Friedman is still a man of ideas — the ever-combative champion of freedom. His career and his contributions in defense of individual liberty are unique in our time. His straightforward economic advice to a South American dictator sparked public protests. And when, in 1976, he arrived in Stockholm to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics there were more protests. For some, his ideas on economic freedom had gone too far.

The Nobel Prize propelled his already distinguished career into international celebrity status. The public began to hear about "positive economics" and got to know the mild-mannered Milton Friedman. Some found his ideas infectious. Some thought he was all wrong. Everyone, it seemed, had an opinion.

Before the decade of the 80's was over, millions would watch him on public television in the United States and millions more on television in countries around the world. His critically acclaimed series, Free To Choose, along with its best-selling book, remains to this day the most watched and read about television series on economics ever broadcast. Advisor to two American presidents, he was inevitably drawn into the national political spotlight, although he never held public office.

This university professor from the American Midwest had become the vocal champion of one's freedom to choose, unashamedly engaged in the public debate on the role of government in a free society. Milton Friedman had become part of the American popular culture.