David Stockman, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan, has these words of wisdom on the late free-market economist Milton Friedman:
At the end of the day, Friedman jettisoned the gold standard for a remarkable statist reason. Just as Keynes had been, he was afflicted with the economist’s ambition to prescribe the route to higher national income and prosperity and the intervention tools and recipes that would deliver it. The only difference was that Keynes was originally and primarily a fiscalist, whereas Friedman had seized upon open market operations by the central bank as the route to optimum aggregate demand and national income.
There were massive and multiple ironies in that stance. It put the central bank in the proactive and morally sanctioned business of buying the government’s debt in the conduct of its open market operations. Friedman said, of course, that the FOMC should buy bonds and bills at a rate no greater than 3 percent per annum, but that limit was a thin reed.
Indeed, it cannot be gainsaid that it was Professor Friedman, the scourge of Big Government, who showed the way for Republican central bankers to foster that very thing. Under their auspices, the Fed was soon gorging on the Treasury’s debt emissions, thereby alleviating the inconvenience of funding more government with more taxes.