Putting Milton Friedman on PBS

  • Public-Policy Reform
  • 1980

After the liberal economist John Galbraith filmed The Age of Uncertainty, a television series for the BBC, several American philanthropists and corporations looked for a way to even the ideological balance sheet. They turned to Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, who guided viewers through economic successes and failures around the globe, including their social effects, in a ten-part television series that appeared on PBS in 1980. The Sarah Scaife Foundation led the way, with a grant of $500,000. The John M. Olin Foundation contributed $250,000, Getty Oil Company $330,000, and the Reader’s Digest Association $300,000. Other supporters included the Lilly Endowment, and the National Federation of Independent Business.

The show made a vigorous intellectual case for capitalism and was a smashing popular success. A book co-authored by Milton’s wife, Rose, and published as a companion to the television series hit the bestseller lists in the United States and abroad. In the wake of his Free to Choose series and book, Friedman was perhaps the most popular and influential economist on the planet.