Friedman stood unfailingly and heroically with the little guy against the state. He used to marvel that the intellectual left, which claims to espouse "power to the people," so often cheers as states suppress individual rights.
While he questioned almost every statist orthodoxy, he fearlessly gored sacred cows of both political parties. He was the first scholar to sound the alarm on the rotten deal of Social Security for young workers—forced to pay into a system that will never give back as much as they could have accumulated on their own. He questioned the need for occupational licenses—which he lambasted as barriers to entry—for everything from driving a cab to passing the bar to be an attorney, or getting an M.D. to practice medicine.
He loved turning the intellectual tables on liberals by making the case that regulation often does more harm than good. His favorite example was the Food and Drug Administration, whose regulations routinely delay the introduction of lifesaving drugs. "When the FDA boasts a new drug will save 10,000 lives a year," he would ask, "how many lives were lost because it didn’t let the drug on the market last year?"
He supported drug legalization (much to the dismay of supporters on the right) and was particularly proud to be an influential voice in ending the military draft in the 1970s. When his critics argued that he favored a military of mercenaries, he would retort: "If you insist on calling our volunteer soldiers ‘mercenaries,’ I will call those who you want drafted into service involuntarily ‘slaves.’"
By the way, he rarely got angry and even when he was intellectually slicing and dicing his sparring partners he almost always did it with a smile. It used to be said that over the decades at the University of Chicago and across the globe, the only one who ever defeated him in a debate was his beloved wife and co-author Rose Friedman.
The issue he devoted most of his later years to was school choice for all parents, and his Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice is dedicated to that cause. He used to lament that "we allow the market, consumer choice and competition to work in nearly every industry except for the one that may matter most: education."
As for congressional Republicans who are at risk of getting suckered into a tax-hike budget deal, they may want to remember another Milton Friedman adage: "Higher taxes never reduce the deficit. Governments spend whatever they take in and then whatever they can get away with."