Hoover Institution
Rose and Milton Freidman

Milton and Rose Friedman

An Uncommon Couple

Milton Friedman's Nobel Prize

Milton Friedman receiving the Nobel Prize, 1976
Milton Friedman receiving the Nobel Prize, 1976, Box 113, Milton Friedman papers Hoover Institution Archives

In 1976, Milton Friedman was awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel "for his achievements in the fields of consumption analysis, monetary history and theory, and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy." To read the press release announcing Milton's award, click here.

In his acceptance speech at the Nobel Banquet on December 10, 1976, Milton said:

It is a great honor and privilege for me to be here tonight, sharing in the reflected glory from my distinguished colleagues, not only the six fellow members of the class of 1976, but the many more who, over the past seventy-five years, have made the term "Nobel laureate" the highest mark of distinction to which a scholar can aspire.

My science is a late-comer, the Prize in Economic Science in Memory of Alfred Nobel having been established only in 1968 by the Central Bank of Sweden to celebrate its tercentenary. That circumstance does, I admit, leave me with something of a conflict of interest. As some of you may know, my monetary studies have led me to the conclusion that central banks could profitably be replaced by computers geared to provide a steady rate of growth in the quantity of money. Fortunately for me personally, and for a select group of fellow economists, that conclusion has had no practical impact – else there would have been no central bank of Sweden to have established the award I am honored to receive. Should I draw the moral that sometimes to fail it to succeed? Whether I do or not, I suspect some economists may. – Two Lucky People, pp. 453–454 (See full speech here.)

This excerpt illustrates Milton's reaction to receiving the Nobel Prize. When met by reporters after the award was announced, Milton responded to their questions by saying that the award was "not the pinnacle of [his] career." On a later appearance on Meet the Press, he said he believed that the "true test of a scholar's work is the judgment that is made not at the time his work is being done, but twenty-five or fifty years later" (Two Lucky People, p. 442). Indeed, although Milton was honored to be recognized, he met the award with characteristic humility, matter-of-factness, and humor.

News outlets, colleagues, and other economists, however, expressed overwhelmingly, both to the Friedmans and to the media, that the award was well-deserved and long-overdue. In Two Lucky People, Rose Friedman cites a Financial Times article, "The Timeliness of Milton Friedman," that began, "Congratulations are surely due to the committee concerned rather than to Professor Friedman on this Nobel Prize in economics; it is overdue. Friedman is unquestionably the most influential economist of our day, and events now seem to be conspiring to give a harsh demonstration of the truth of some of his most important insights" (p. 444).

Milton accepted his Nobel Prize on December 10, 1976, and gave his Nobel Lecture, "Inflation and Unemployment," on December 13, 1976.

Title Date
Milton Friedman: Autobiography, Addendum 2005
Milton Friedman: Autobiography 1977
Inflation and Unemployment: Nobel Memorial Lecture 1977
Award Presentation Speech by Professor Erik Lundberg December 10, 1976
Nobel Banquet Speech December 10, 1976

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