La musa revolucionaria de la libertad

Los grandes pensadores sociales casi siempre arrancan siendo figuras polarizadoras, admiradas por algunos y despreciadas por otros, hasta que finalmente prevalece su desafío radical frente a cómo entendemos el mundo. Milton Friedman fue un gigante entre los pensadores sociales modernos por lo menos por dos motivos. Primero, influyó profundamente no sólo en su propio terreno, la economía, sino también en las ciencias sociales en general. Segundo, a juzgar por la experiencia histórica, su influencia sobre la opinión pública y la creación de políticas económicas cambió innumerables vidas para mejor.

Durante décadas, Friedman permaneció solitario en el desierto intelectual, rechazando el consenso keynesiano de posguerra de que los gobiernos deberían utilizar la política fiscal para manejar la mayor demanda –una visión que sustentó las políticas económicas estatistas de los años 70-. En realidad, en el contexto de su época, Friedman fue un verdadero revolucionario intelectual, que combinaba la rigurosa investigación académica con el periodismo y los libros de divulgación popular escritos de manera refinada para argumentar a favor de las políticas de libre mercado –y para afirmar el vínculo, defendido por escritores como Adam Smith y Friedrich von Hayek, entre libertad económica y libertad política.

En economía, Friedman revivió y desarrolló la teoría monetarista de que la cantidad de dinero en circulación es el principal factor determinante en lo que a desempeño de las economías se refiere. En su obra maestra Historia monetaria de Estados Unidos (1867-1960) (escrito junto con Anna Schwartz), atribuía las recesiones, entre ellas la Gran Depresión de los años 30, a una caída en la oferta monetaria. De la misma manera, sostenía que lo que causaba la inflación era una sobreoferta de dinero.

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